HONG KONG: Fierce clashes broke out between protesters and riot police in Hong Kong on Sunday as thousands marched through the strife-torn city, during a day of global protests aimed at casting a shadow over communist China’s upcoming 70th birthday.
Beijing is preparing for huge, tightly-choreographed festivities from Tuesday to mark the founding of the People’s Republic of China, including a massive military parade that will revel in the country’s emergence as a global superpower.
But ongoing unrest in Hong Kong threatens to upstage those celebrations as the semi-autonomous city boils with public anger over the erosion of its special freedoms under Beijing’s rule.
Democracy activists in the financial hub had vowed to ramp up their nearly four-month-long campaign ahead of Tuesday’s National Day celebrations, which Hong Kong protesters have dubbed a “Day of Grief”.
Sunday witnessed the most intense clashes in weeks as police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons at multiple locations for hours during running battles with hardcore protesters hurling rocks and petrol bombs.
Using online forums and social media, demonstrators had called for “anti-totalitarian” rallies to be held around the globe. Marches were held in Australia and Taiwan, with more planned in some 40 locations across Europe and North America later in the day.
Clashes broke out before Hong Kong’s unsanctioned march had begun after angry groups in the shopping district of Causeway Bay surrounded and heckled officers who were conducting stop and searches.
But the tear gas fired by police only emboldened the crowds, who then began walking through the streets in their thousands.
Some hardcore activists vandalised subway stations, tore down banners proclaiming the upcoming 70th anniversary celebrations and set fire to makeshift barricades.
Many marchers were holding so-called “Chinazi flags”, a version of the Chinese flag with yellow stars arranged in the shape of a swastika.
Police spent hours firing tear gas and rubber bullets at different locations across the city centre and were seen making multiple arrests throughout the day.
A reporter witnessed masked men repeatedly beating pro-democracy protesters in Wanchai district using long sticks.
It was not clear if the men were officers dressed as protesters, a tactic increasingly used by the force.
A member of the media was also treated by volunteer medics after being hit in the face with a police projectile, while at least two men were attacked by democracy demonstrators and a taxi was trashed.
Hospital authorities late Sunday said 13 people were admitted, one in a serious condition.
A 20-year-old student, who gave his first name as Tony, was waving a Ukrainian flag.
Many of Hong Kong’s more hardcore protesters have taken inspiration from the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution which ousted a pro-Russian president.
Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2019