Sunday 22 September 2019

Hong Kong in 'great danger' warns the city government as protesters held

Demonstrators wear masks to avoid tear gas fired by riot officers ((Kin Cheung/AP)
Demonstrators wear masks to avoid tear gas fired by riot officers ((Kin Cheung/AP)

Twinnie Siu

Illegal violence is pushing Hong Kong to the brink of great danger, the city government said yesterday after a weekend of clashes that included the first gun-shot and the arrest of 86 people, the youngest just 12.

Police fired water cannon and volleys of tear gas in running battles with protesters who threw bricks and petrol bombs on Sunday, the second day of clashes.

Six officers drew their pistols and one officer fired a warning shot into the air, police said, adding 215 rounds of tear gas and 74 rubber bullets were fired over the two days.

"The escalating illegal and violent acts of radical protesters are not only outrageous, they also push Hong Kong to the verge of a very dangerous situation," the government said.

The protests began in mid-June over a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong people to be sent to mainland China for trial.

But the demonstrations have evolved over 12 straight weeks into a broad demand for greater democracy in the financial hub that was promised a high degree of autonomy under a "one country, two systems" formula when it was handed to China in 1997.

More demonstrations are planned, including a rally at Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways headquarters tomorrow to protest against perceived "white terror", a term used to describe anonymous acts to create a climate of fear.

Cathay has emerged as the biggest corporate casualty of the protests after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or who supported, the anti-government demonstrations that have plunged the city into its biggest crisis since 1997.

On Saturday, activists threw petrol bombs and bricks in the gritty industrial district of Kwun Tong, on the east of the Kowloon peninsula. Some protesters cut down "smart" lamp posts equipped with surveillance cameras.

The protests pose the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took power in 2012, with Beijing keen to quell the unrest ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic on October 1.

Protesters again adopted cat-and-mouse tactics on Sunday evening, gathering then quickly dispersing, only to reappear in other places.

They also set up barricades to block some roads, following a largely peaceful rally.

Police said the 86 arrested were aged 12 to 52, and were suspected of offences including unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons and assaulting police officers.

Twenty-one officers were injured in the violence, they said.

China has denounced the protests, warned of the damage to Hong Kong's economy and complained of outside interference.

It has also sent a clear warning that forceful intervention is possible, with paramilitary forces holding drills in Shenzhen, just over the border from in mainland China.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News