Hong Kong protests shift tactics as police make arrests

HONG KONG — Tearing a page out of ancient Chinese military philosophy, protesters in Hong Kong changed tactics and popped up in small groups in multiple locations across the city Sunday rather than gather in one large demonstration, pursued by police who swooped in to make muscular arrests.

The guerrilla-like tactics sought to maximize the disruption and visibility of protests at a time when anti-government demonstrations have, as a whole, been showing signs of flagging as they enter their fifth month. Pressure from a government ban on the face masks worn by many protesters and extreme violence earlier this month seem to have cooled the ardor of some demonstrators and whittled down protest numbers.

Calls to protest posted online called for gatherings to start at 2 p.m. in dozens of locations, including parks, malls and sports grounds. That marked a shift from earlier more concentrated rallies in fewer spots.

The notion of changing strategies to adapt to shifting circumstances and to maximize the effectiveness of one’s resources is deeply engrained in Chinese thinking, notably detailed in the ancient military treatise “The Art of War,” and inspiring Mao Zedong’s Communist rebels on their route to seizing power in China in 1949.

In Hong Kong, protesters speak of being “like water,” fluid and adaptable.