The Hong Kong police have been slammed by the protest groups for being too violent and then criticised from above for being too weak; in the last 24 hours they have clearly decided that they aren’t going to be seen as weak anymore.
Suddenly everything is very different here. It has been violent for days, now it’s getting really nasty.
Social media is full of protester and police injuries.
At every flashpoint we are immersed in tear gas and have to dodge molotov cocktails, rocks, steel marbles, tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and the quaintly named “bean bag” rounds the police fire – which hurt like a punch in the face.
A young woman may well lose the sight of an eye from a bean bag round fired near us.
The protesters changed their tactics this week with more demonstrations in many places, causing chaos, then moving on.
The police have now changed theirs.
They aren’t negotiating with the protesters anymore. Now they are in attack mode as soon as an unauthorised gathering begins.
Street after street, tear gas, then charges, pushing the protesters back. Snatch squads dressed in civilian clothes dart forward to catch trouble makers; they will be charged with rioting which has a ten-year prison sentence.
The numbers of protesters seem smaller, but the hard core keep turning out.
They build barricades and cause disruption, of course, but they don’t and actually can’t hold ground for long.
These types of confrontations spring up constantly all over Hong Kong and it forces ordinary people to flee for safety with their shopping or with elderly family members ushered into doorways.
Throughout the day completely disorientated and terrified people asked me in my gas mask where they should go.
“Anywhere, just not here, get indoors,” was the best help I could offer. I felt awfully sorry for all of them caught up in what is pretty scary even for those of us who have seen it so many times.
The police are really in no mood for any compromise now.
The protesters have been using the underground to melt away from violent demonstrations. Not any more.
Police follow them down and fire tear gas beneath ground. There too the reports of injuries are growing.
Many in Hong Kong support the protest movement but strongly disapprove of the violence.
In the conservative North Point area, from our car, we saw would-be demonstrators singled out by local men and beaten up on the side of a busy shopping street. They don’t want the demonstrators to march here.
The police lined the streets trying to keep the peace as tension grew throughout the day.
Hong Kong has seen 10 weeks of demonstration and violence and more rallies this weekend. Often huge numbers turn out to show their support.
But most of the marches focus on police stations and now the police are taking no chances.
Their deployments are in big numbers and they are well armed and ready for trouble in an instant.
But it is still going on, day after day. The Hong Kong and Beijing governments are losing patience with this disruption and the effect it is having on the economy and normal life.
The protest movement may be faltering in terms of numbers, but they could just be tired.
Whatever, there is not a single sign of compromise from either side.