Wed, 21 Aug 2019

Hong Kong has been rocked by yet another weekend of tear gas, baton charges and angry protests amid a deepening confrontation between anti-extradition protesters and the city authorities.

Riot police fired multiple rounds of tear gas at "illegal" protests and made arrests in several districts of the city on Sunday, as pro-China thugs attacked anti-extradition protesters in North Point.

"HK Riot Police fired bullet and headshot a young lady," Joshua Wong, a former leader of the 2014 pro-democracy movement, said in a caption to a photo posted to his Twitter account on Sunday. "I am not sure whether her right eye will turn blind or not but it is totally insane and terrible."

Wong called on the U.S. to end all exports of tear gas and rubber bullets to Hong Kong.

The clashes came after a weekend of protests that defied police bans on marches and gatherings in Sham Shui Po, Tai Po and downtown shopping districts in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

Protesters continued their chant of "Reclaim Hong Kong! Revolution now!", while protesters and local residents alike hurled obscenities at the police for their apparent collusion with a string of triad-linked attacks in recent weeks.

In North Point, tensions were running high as protesters gathered in a district known for its triad-linked loyalty to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, after a man in a red shirt ran out of a restaurant and attacked a young man wearing black: the usual colour worn by supporters of the anti-extradition movement.

A Tai Po district resident surnamed Chan said she was very angry with the way the police had handled the protests so far.

"We are going to walk the streets. Wearing black clothes has become very popular lately," she said. "Black clothes show that you care more about justice."

"[These young people] are on the side of justice, and bringing Hong Kong society out of chaos," Chan said. "The police ... have been targeting the people of Hong Kong, and ignoring their safety."

Protest standoffs

Local people engaged in angry shouting matches with protesters, with at least one assault on a member of the press reported on Sunday.

Police fired many rounds of tear gas from in side the Tsim Sha Tsui police station to clear protesters on both Saturday and Sunday evening, while protesters completely blocked Nathan Road, a busy shopping street running north from Tsim Sha Tsui towards the city's iconic Lion Rock.

"A large group of protesters are gathering on the Park Lane Shopper's Boulevard, Tsim Sha Tsui, blocking the section of Nathan Road between Austin Road and Salisbury Road," the police said in a statement on Sunday.

"This seriously affects emergency services for the public. Some protestors even hurled smoke bombs and hard objects, and aimed laser beams at police officers," it said, adding "Police officers have deployed tear gas and used minimum force to disperse protesters."

"Residents of the area are advised ... to, if necessary, keep their windows shut and stay indoors," it said.

An almost identical statement was issued regarding the use of tear gas in Hong Kong Island's Wanchai district that accused protesters of throwing "petrol bombs." However, local media only reported that small fires were burning on the tarmac in some protest locations, with no indication as to how they started.

Further north, protesters also gathered outside police stations in Sham Shui Po and Cheung Sha Wan districts, where police fired tear gas at a pedestrian footbridge where journalists were clustered and where local residents were passing by on their daily business, according to several social media posts from the scene.

"The area around the Sham Shui Po police station once again turned to a battleground on Sunday afternoon as scores of anti-riot police fire volleys of tear gas at brick-throwing anti-government demonstrators who had again besieged the station," government broadcaster RTHK reported.

Many protesters said they had come out in anger over the arrest of Hong Kong Baptist University student union president Keith Fong on Tuesday on suspicion of carrying an "offensive weapon."

Fong, who was carrying 10 recently purchased laser pointers, none of which was equipped with a power supply, was later released without charge.

On Saturday, protesters were also chased away with riot police using tear gas from their occupation of a traffic roundabout near Tai Wai, on the other side of Lion Rock, while protesters blocked a road outside the New Town Plaza shopping mall in neighboring Shatin.

Protesters also set up barricades using traffic barricades and umbrellas near the Kowloon-side exit of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, leaving before riot police arrived on Saturday.

Protest goals

A protester surnamed Koh said the protesters' goals hadn't changed, even though they continued to show up in different districts across Hong Kong.

"We're not really focusing on where the protests are: our goals are very consistent, which is to say the five demands," Koh told RFA on Saturday.

Meanwhile, thousands of anti-extradition protesters gathered in the arrivals hall of the Hong Kong International Airport for the third day of a sit-in that began on Friday, greeting new arrivals to the city with a rendition of "Do You Hear The People Sing!" in English and recent video footage of police violence against them.

The anti-extradition protests have called in recent weeks on the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam to formally withdraw planned amendments to extradition laws that would allow alleged criminal suspects to be sent to face trial in mainland courts, to release all protesters without charge and to stop describing the protests as riots or protesters as violent.

They also want the government to set up an independent public inquiry into police use of tear gas, batons, rubber and textile bullets, and batons to attack crowds of largely peaceful demonstrators, and their failure to prevent bloody attacks by triad-linked thugs on protesting crowds in Yuen Long and North Point.

And they want Lam to formally dissolve the Legislative Council (LegCo) and implement political reforms leading to fully democratic elections with public nominations both to the legislature and for the city's chief executive.

But Lam has refused all along to countenance such concessions, preferring to focus on the economic costs of the protest movement without addressing the political crisis that sparked it.

In Washington, there is growing bipartisan support for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which will require the U.S. government to stop according the city separate trading status if its promised freedoms and political autonomy continue to be eroded under Chinese rule.

The bill also seeks to "establish punitive measures against government officials in Hong Kong or mainland China who are responsible for suppressing basic freedoms in Hong Kong."

Reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Copyright © 1998-2018, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

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