Protesters and police yesterday clashed in Hong Kong for a second straight day, throwing the territory’s business and shopping belt into chaos, and sparking fears of more ugly scenes ahead of China’s National Day tomorrow.
Riot police repeatedly fired blue liquid — used to identify protesters — from a water cannon truck and multiple volleys of tear gas after demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails at officers and targeted the government office complex.
It was a repeat of Saturday’s clashes and part of a familiar cycle since pro-democracy protests began in early June. The protests were sparked by a now-shelved extradition bill and have since snowballed into an anti-China movement.
“We know that in the face of the world’s largest totalitarian regime — to quote Captain America: ‘Whatever it takes,’” Justin Leung, a 21-year-old protester who covered his mouth with a black scarf, said of the violent methods deployed by radicals. “The consensus right now is that everyone’s methods are valid and we all do our part.”
Protesters are planning to march again tomorrow, despite a police ban, raising fears of more violent confrontations that could embarrass Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) as his Chinese Communist Party (CCP) marks 70 years since taking power.
Protesters are calling for Oct. 1 to be marked as “A Day of Grief.”
The Hong Kong government has already scaled down the territory’s National Day celebrations, canceling an annual fireworks display and moving a reception indoors.
Despite security concerns, the government yesterday said that Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) would today lead a delegation of more than 240 people to Beijing to participate in the National Day festivities.
Yesterday’s turmoil started in the early afternoon when police fired tear gas to disperse a large crowd that amassed in the popular Causeway Bay shopping district.
However, thousands of people regrouped and marched along a main thoroughfare toward government offices, crippling traffic.
“So many youngsters feel that they’re going to have no future because of the power of China,” Andy Yeung, 40, said as he pushed his toddler in a stroller. “It’s hopeless for Hong Kong. If we don’t stand up, there will be no hope.”
Protesters, many clad in black with umbrellas and carrying pro-democracy posters and foreign flags, sang songs and chanted “Stand with Hong Kong, fight for freedom.”
Some defaced, tore down and burned National Day congratulatory signage, setting off a huge blaze on the street. Others sprayed graffiti along walls, and smashed windows and lobbed Molotov cocktails at subway exits.
Police then fired a water cannon and tear gas as the crowd approached the government office complex. Most fled, but hundreds returned, hurling objects into the complex.
Members of an elite police squad, commonly known as raptors, then charged out suddenly from behind barricades, taking many protesters by surprise. A number who failed to flee in time were subdued and detained in a scene of chaos.
The raptors, backed by scores of riot police, pursued protesters down the roads to nearby areas. Officers continued to fire multiple rounds of tear gas as the cat-and-mouse clashes continued into nightfall.
The demonstration was part of global “anti-totalitarianism” rallies planned in more than 60 cities worldwide to denounce “Chinese tyranny.” Thousands rallied in Taipei, while more than 1,000 took part in a rally in Sydney.
The protracted unrest, approaching four months, has battered Hong Kong’s economy, with businesses and tourism plunging.
Lam held her first community dialogue with the public on Thursday in a bid to defuse tensions, but failed to persuade protesters, who vowed to press on until their demands are met, including direct elections for the territory’s leaders and police accountability.
Earlier yesterday, hundreds of pro-Beijing Hong Kong residents sang the Chinese national anthem and waved red flags at a waterfront cultural center in a show of support for Chinese rule. They were later bused to the Victoria Peak hilltop for the same repertoire.
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