HK protesters, police face off in renewed clashes

Updated September 22, 2019

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HONG KONG: A protester throws a molotov cocktail (right) during clashes with police on Saturday. Police fire tear gas (left) in a street to deter the protesters from proceeding further.—Agencies
HONG KONG: A protester throws a molotov cocktail (right) during clashes with police on Saturday. Police fire tear gas (left) in a street to deter the protesters from proceeding further.—Agencies

HONG KONG: Protesters in Hong Kong threw gasoline bombs and police fired tear gas on Saturday in renewed clashes over anti-government grievances.

Hong Kong is in the fourth month of sometimes violent protests that occur every weekend. They started with opposition to a proposed extradition law and have expanded to include demands for greater democracy.

Most protesters in Tuen Mun were peaceful but some threw gasoline bombs and bricks towards police who faced them down the street. They appeared to fall short of the police and there was no indication anyone was hit.

In the evening, protesters gathered at a shopping mall in another district, Yuen Long. Some threw gasoline bombs in the street.

A government statement said some were thrown towards police vehicles, endangering the officers inside, but gave no indication anyone was injured.

In both areas, police with riot helmets and shields responded by firing tear gas.

Elsewhere, scuffles were reported as government supporters heeded a call by a pro-Beijing member of the Hong Kong legislature to tear down protest posters at subway stations.

The events are an embarrassment for China’s Communist Party ahead of Oct 1 celebrations of its 70th anniversary in power. Hong Kong’s government has cancelled a fireworks display that day, citing concern for public safety.

Protesters chanted, “Reclaim Hong Kong!” and “Revolution of our times!” Most were peaceful but some took down a Chinese flag from a pole outside a government office and set fire to it. Protesters also set up barricades to block traffic.

A government statement said protesters caused unspecified damage to the Tuen Mun light rail station and threw objects onto the tracks.

An organiser quoted by government broadcaster RTHK criticized police for sending armed anti-riot officers. That will “only escalate tension between protesters and police”, the organiser, Michael Mo, was quoted as saying.

Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, has agreed to withdraw the extradition bill. But protesters are pressing other demands, including an independent investigation of complaints about police violence during earlier demonstrations.

Protesters complain Beijing and Lam’s government are eroding the “high degree of autonomy” and Western-style civil liberties promised to the former British colony when it was returned to China in 1997.

The protests have begun to weigh on Hong Kong’s economy, which already was slowing due to cooling global consumer demand. The Hong Kong airport said passenger traffic fell in August. Business is off at hotels and retailers.

Police refused permission for Saturday’s march but an appeal tribunal agreed to allow a two-hour event.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong airport announced restrictions on access on Sunday following what it said were calls to disrupt traffic there.

The airport train from downtown will skip Kowloon and other stops en route, the Airport Authority said. Only passengers with valid tickets and travel documents will be allowed into the airport.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2019