Thousands took to Hong Kong’s streets yesterday in a new wave of pro-democracy protests, but police fired tear gas after some demonstrators hurled bricks and smoke bombs, breaking a pause in violence that has persisted during the six-month-long movement.
In the largest of three rallies, a key thoroughfare along the waterfront on the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour was packed with demonstrators, from hardened masked protesters in all-black outfits to families and elderly people.
They chanted “Five demands, not one less” and “Disband the police force” as they marched.
The rally followed two other marches earlier in the day as protesters sought to keep the pressure on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) after the wins by the pro-democracy camp in the district council elections on Sunday last week and US support for their cause.
“If we don’t walk out, the government will say it’s just a youth issue, but this is a Hong Kong problem that affects all of us,” Lily Chau, 30, said as she pushed her toddler in a stroller at the Kowloon march.
“If we are scared, the government will continue to trample on our rights,” she said.
Slogans spray-painted along walls and on sidewalks reminded the crowd that “Freedom is not free” and pledged “Victory at all costs.”
The Kowloon rally was cut short after riot police fired tear gas and arrested a few people.
A police statement said minimum force was deployed after “hundreds of rioters hurled smoke bombs” and bricks to cause chaos.
Marchers berated police as they scrambled to flee the tear gas, shouting “Dirty cops” and “Are you trying to kill us?”
Some protesters dug up paving stones and threw them on the street to try to slow the police down.
Officers earlier also used pepper spray after some protesters deviated from the approved route.
Hong Kong’s protests have been relatively peaceful during the two weeks surrounding the elections, but yesterday’s disruption indicated there might be more violence if Lam fails to yield to protesters’ demands.
Tensions started on Saturday night after police used pepper balls to disperse protesters who had set up road barriers in a hotspot area and a man was reportedly hit in the head by an unidentified assailant after he tried to clear the street.
Lam has said she will accelerate dialogue, but has refused to offer any new concessions since the elections.
Her government has accepted only one demand — withdrawing extradition legislation that would have sent suspects to mainland China for trial.
Elaine Wong, an office worker who was at the Kowloon march, called the recent election win “an empty victory.”
“We have in actual fact not won any concessions for our demands,” she said. “We must continue to stand out to remind the government of our unhappiness.”
The two earlier marches yesterday appealed to US President Donald Trump for help and demanded that police stop using tear gas.
Waving US flags, black-clad protesters marched to the US consulate to thank Trump for signing into law last week legislation supporting their cause, and urged him to swiftly sanction Lam and other officials for suppressing human rights.
Some held banners reading “Let’s make Hong Kong great again” — a riff on Trump’s 2016 campaign pledge to make the US great again.
One showed him standing atop a tank with “Trump” emblazoned on the front and side.
At the other small rally, a peaceful crowd of about 200 adults and young children marched to government headquarters in the morning and chanted “No more tear gas.”
“A lot of parents are worried that their children are affected, because their children are coughing, breaking out in rashes and so forth,” social worker and march organizer Leo Kong said.
In Geneva, Switzerland, China accused UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet of emboldening “radical violence” in Hong Kong.
In an opinion piece published on Saturday in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, Bachelet called for an “independent and impartial judge-led investigation into reports of excessive use of force by the police.”
She also said that Lam’s government must prioritize “meaningful, inclusive” dialogue to resolve the crisis.
China’s UN mission in Geneva said the article interferes in China’s internal affairs and exerts pressure on Hong Kong’s government and police, which “will only embolden the rioters to conduct more severe radical violence.”
It said Bachelet made “inappropriate comments” and that China had lodged a strong protest in response.
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