Saturday 21 September 2019

Protesters and police clash as violence flares in Hong Kong

Arrest: Police detain a demonstrator during a protest near China’s Liaison Office, in Hong Kong. Photo: REUTERS/Edgar Su
Arrest: Police detain a demonstrator during a protest near China’s Liaison Office, in Hong Kong. Photo: REUTERS/Edgar Su

Sophia Yan

Hong Kong descended into a second day of pandemonium yesterday as police again fired volleys of tear gas at pro- democracy protesters during increasingly violent clashes.

At the western end of Hong Kong island, rounds of tear gas were fired continuously from all sides as riot police charged forward to disperse protesters, beating some with batons and shields and handcuffing others.

Anger has escalated among the largely peaceful demonstrators, after weeks of what many describe as unprecedented police brutality.

Some protesters responded by throwing projectiles, including giant metal street signs, at the police.

Others shielded themselves from the tear gas with wooden boards and umbrellas.

Some set a cart on fire and pushed it towards a police cordon, police said.

One man (48), who gave the name Lych, moved from mainland China as a young adult more than 20 years ago in order to enjoy the greater freedoms in the city.

He said he was saddened to see such violence from the police.

"The young people don't see a future. Tell the world," he said.

In a rare move, police did not approve the original route that would have moved demonstrators from the main business district west toward a harbour-front park in efforts to contain the turmoil.

Instead, an afternoon assembly was approved for a public square in the central business hub.

But tens of thousands of peaceful protesters spilled into the streets.

They clogged subway exits and nearby shopping centres and brought traffic to a halt on wide avenues.

Demonstrators, including young children with their parents, targeted several locations.

These included the police headquarters and Chinese government liaison office - a symbol of Communist Party rule in Hong Kong that has for years been targeted by the pro-democracy movement. Last weekend, protesters vandalised the building.

"If we don't keep coming out, we won't have Hong Kong any more," said Catie.

"Our freedoms might not be the same as before," the 19-year-old added.

Protesters marching east stopped by late afternoon in Causeway Bay, a shopping district that is popular with tourists, pulling up metal gates from the pavement, dragging bus poles with heavy cement bases, and pushing trash bins so that they could be erected as metal barriers.

British and US flags were spotted - a tactic that is meant to encourage foreign governments to speak out in support of Hong Kong.

Demonstrators chanted "add oil" - a popular slogan meant to encourage others - and "liberate Hong Kong".

Hong Kong has witnessed eight consecutive weekends of protests.

They have plunged the city into its worst political crisis in recent history.

Millions of people began taking to the streets to protest against an extradition proposal that would have sent suspects to face trial in mainland China.

Demands to scrap the bill have since evolved into calls for wider democratic freedoms, the resignation of the city's chief executive and an independent inquiry into police actions.

Beijing has become more vocal in condemning the protests in recent weeks.

While the Chinese government has made it clear that the military could be deployed if necessary - a move that would be eerily reminiscent of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 - it has largely left Hong Kong's leaders to deal with the situation themselves.

Carrie Lam, the city's embattled executive, has shown little sign of backing down.

And while she suspended the extradition proposal, she stopped short of withdrawing it - a decision that protesters say means the legislature could quickly revive and pass at any time.

City leaders, who demonstrators feel are not listening, are also facing growing anger, as tensions escalate in a summer of protests that shows no sign of ending.

Police arrested at least 13 people at the weekend, including Max Chung, the main organiser for an unapproved march that took place on Saturday and ended in violent chaos late at night. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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