After months of it feeling like the Hong Kong protests were almost settling into if not a lull, then at least some kind of routine, the last week has been nothing but escalation.
Only a week ago, a Hong Kong university student was shot by a police officer; later in the same day a man was set on fire following a dispute with protesters. A 70-year-old man was struck on the head with a brick and later died. Protesters fortified multiple campuses and police launched intense clearance operations.
This week shows no signs of slowing down. Today has already seen dramatic clashes at Polytechnic University, where a siege of the campus is still ongoing and police are cracking down on all those who leave, even as protests spring up elsewhere across the city in an attempt to relieve the pressure.
Throughout clashes Sunday night into Monday morning, protesters used petrol bombs and flaming arrows, as police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.
Both sides seem to be preparing for greater violence, with protesters making Molotov cocktails filled with a napalm-like substance and even apparently setting explosive booby traps on the PolyU campus. Meanwhile police have deployed snipers and officers could be seen patrolling with assault rifles after the force said it may use live rounds if the dispute continues.
It seems inevitable that images coming out of PolyU will further exacerbate anger and fuel more protests, even as the last major misstep by the government -- a ban on the wearing of masks using a colonial era law -- was ruled unconstitutional by a court this morning.
After almost six months of unrest, everything seems to be speeding up, and we may be on the verge of a turning point. The protests have not been bloodless, but those deaths which have occurred did so on the edges of the unrest -- the last week seems to indicate that we may be getting towards the point where fatalities become routine.