Thursday 24 October 2019

Dozens of Hong Kong protesters face court on charges of rioting

Protests: Pro-democracy activists Nathan Law, Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow. Photo: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Protests: Pro-democracy activists Nathan Law, Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow. Photo: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Jessie Pang

Dozens of Hong Kong anti-government protesters appeared in court yesterday charged with rioting and other offences over violent clashes two months ago near China's main representative office.

Police clashed with thousands of protesters in the former British colony on July 28 as they sought to defend the Hong Kong Liaison Office, a symbol of Chinese rule, from the crowds. Officers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and sponge grenades.

The mostly young activists in hard hats and gas masks dismantled street signs and fences which they used to form makeshift barricades to slow police advances.

This is now a common tactic, met by the same response, almost every weekend.

A week earlier, on July 21, they had daubed slogans on the walls of the Liaison Office and thrown paint bombs at it.

The court yesterday adjourned the case until November 19 after prosecutors said they needed more time to study 35 hours of video, including police, online and CCTV footage. The 44 defendants were released on bail.

Violence has hit parts of Hong Kong at different times over the last three months, but life goes on as normal most of the time. But pictures of petrol bombs and street clashes broadcast worldwide present a huge embarrassment for Beijing before the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic on October 1.

The protesters are furious at what they see as creeping Chinese interference in Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula intended to guarantee freedoms that are not enjoyed on the mainland.

China says it is committed to the arrangement and denies meddling. It has accused foreign governments including the United States and Britain of inciting the unrest.

The protests have led to the cancellation of trade fairs and sporting events, the latest being a football match with Malaysia planned for next month, the Hong Kong Football Association announced.

The charges yesterday, apart from rioting, included one of possessing an offensive weapon in a public place and several of assaulting police.

Irish Independent

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