Tuesday 17 September 2019

Police draw their guns as Hong Kong violence flares anew

Danger: Police officers point their guns at protesters just metres away at Tsuen Wan in Hong Kong. Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters
Danger: Police officers point their guns at protesters just metres away at Tsuen Wan in Hong Kong. Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Kelvin Chan

Police pointed their guns directly at protesters in a new escalation of the Hong Kong crisis after a small group of activists attacked officers with sticks and rods.

The confrontations were the latest violence in a summer of protests that have shaken the city's government and residents to the core.

The main showdown took place in the outlying Tsuen Wan district following a protest march that ended in a nearby park.

While a large crowd rallied in the park, a group of hard-line protesters took over a main street, throwing bamboo poles on the pavement and lining up traffic barriers and cones to obstruct police.

Some dug up bricks from the pavement and wheeled them away to use as missiles; others sprayed detergent on the road to make it slippery for the lines of police.

Clashes spread in many directions as protesters broke shopfront windows and threw tear gas canisters back at police.

A riot police officer approaches a demonstrator carrying a placard to usher her off the street. Photo: Reuters
A riot police officer approaches a demonstrator carrying a placard to usher her off the street. Photo: Reuters

After hoisting warning flags, police used tear gas to try to disperse the crowd.

Protesters responded by throwing bricks and petrol bombs toward the police and eventually decided to abandon their position.

Two water cannon trucks and a large group of police vehicles joined riot police on foot as they advanced up the street and met little resistance.

TV footage showed a water cannon being fired once, but perhaps more as a test, as it did not appear to reach the retreating protesters.

A protester throws a Molotov cocktail at police. Photo: Reuters
A protester throws a Molotov cocktail at police. Photo: Reuters

Some protesters said they were resorting to violence because the government had not responded to their peaceful demonstrations.

"The escalation you're seeing is just a product of our government's indifference toward the people of Hong Kong," said Rory Wong, who was at the clash after the march.

M Sung, a 53-year-old software engineer in a black mask like many of the older, middle-class citizens at the march earlier yesterday, said he had been at almost every protest.

"We know this is the last chance to fight for 'one country, two systems', otherwise the Chinese Communist Party will penetrate our home city and control everything," he said.

Police detain a demonstrator during the protest in Hong Kong. Photo: Vincent Yu/AP
Police detain a demonstrator during the protest in Hong Kong. Photo: Vincent Yu/AP

During the violence, officers pulled their guns after protesters chased them down a street with sticks and rods, calling them "gangsters".

One reporter for public broadcaster RTHK said he saw an officer fire into the air.

Earlier, tens of thousands of umbrella-carrying protesters had marched in the rain.

Many filled Tsuen Wan Park, the end point of the rally, chanting: "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong."

Protesters have taken to the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's streets for more than two months.

Their demands include democratic elections and an investigation into police use of force to quell the protests.

A large group clashed with police on Saturday after a march in the Kowloon Bay neighbourhood, building barricades and setting fires in the streets.

Police said they arrested 29 people for various offences, including unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons and assaulting police officers.

The clashes, while not as prolonged or violent as some earlier ones, ended a brief lull in the violence.

Irish Independent

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