Tuesday 20 August 2019

Protesters put up barricades as they escape police tear gas

Street battle: A masked protester – with others shielded by umbrellas – hurls back a tear gas canister at police in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Street battle: A masked protester – with others shielded by umbrellas – hurls back a tear gas canister at police in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Yanan Wang

Demonstrators in Hong Kong moved en masse to a luxury shopping district after riot police used tear gas to clear an area they had occupied.

Clad in yellow helmets and black face masks, protesters squeezed out of a subway station in Causeway Bay, with some people directing traffic and others holding open the turnstiles.

Call to quit: Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam. Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha
Call to quit: Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam. Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

Surveillance cameras at the station were covered with black tape and umbrellas as protesters spilled out.

Makeshift barricades were also erected in the area, which hosts high-end department stores and upscale restaurants.

The protesters made their move after police fired tear gas in another district on Hong Kong Island. But police used the same weapon on the protesters at Causeway Bay.

The tear gas beat back most of the crowd but some protesters resisted by throwing the canisters back at officers and hurling eggs and other objects.

Some jeered "gangsters" at the police line.

Demonstrators debated whether they could defend the area or if they should migrate to another district as they had done throughout the night.

Some passers-by were caught in the fray and angrily yelled at protesters.

Earlier in the day, another police station was targeted as rallies in two different parts of the city converged into one.

Following a rally in the Tseung Kwan O area, some used what appeared to be a long, home-made slingshot to hurl rocks, bricks and other objects at a police station, shattering multiple windows, according to authorities.

Demonstrators elsewhere also began to barricade and block roads.

Police said they had arrested more than 20 people for offences including unlawful assembly and assault after protest marches.

As has been the pattern during two months of mass pro-democracy demonstrations in the Chinese territory, yesterday's rallies started off peacefully.

At one park on Hong Kong Island, a flautist and a trumpeter played 'Do You Hear the People Sing?' from the musical 'Les Miserables', which has become a rallying song for protests.

Protesters believe China's government and the administration of Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam are eroding the civil liberties and political autonomy promised when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.

"We are not just another Chinese city - we are Hong Kong," said Cara Lee (53), an insurance agent who was attending her 13th demonstration.

"I feel ashamed because for a long time we didn't do anything," she said. "But now we are awake. I have to speak out for the next generation. It's our moral responsibility."

Police said yesterday they will use a coloured liquid spray to distinguish protesters from other members of the public.

They said the spray is edible and harmless but will stay on skin and clothes as a way of marking demonstrators, and the dye can also be applied to tear gas.

On Saturday, a protest march in the territory's northern area of Kowloon erupted in clashes with police after some marchers walked off the government-approved route and into separate areas.

Police said some protesters threw petrol bombs, bricks and glass bottles and refused to disperse.

Some blocked streets while others surrounded two different police stations, damaging vehicles parked inside one lot.

Residents in one neighbourhood banded together with protesters and surrounded a police station, yelling at riot police to leave.

Protesters are demanding an independent investigation into complaints of police abuse and the government response to an attack in a train station that injured 44 people. They also want Ms Lam to resign.

Activists have called for a city-wide general strike on today. Hong Kong residents increasingly accuse China's ruling Communist Party of encroaching on their liberties.

Those fears have been fuelled by the arrests of booksellers and activists.

On Saturday, some protesters scaled a flag pole, removed the Chinese flag and flung it into Victoria Harbour.

Former Hong Kong leader CY Leung offered HK$1m (€115,000) for information about who threw the flag into the water.

The act will provoke "enormous resentment from the entire nation", he said.

Irish Independent

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