HONG KONG: Hong Kong riot police spent much of Sunday afternoon skirmishing with groups of masked pro-democracy protesters who held flashmob gatherings in multiple locations — although crowds were smaller and less violent than recent weekends.
Rallies erupted in multiple neighbourhoods with some protesters blocking roads, throwing objects onto train tracks as well as spraying graffiti and smashing the windows of some pro-China businesses.
Police made dozens of arrests as they rushed to intercept activists but the clashes were less sustained than earlier this month when the city was virtually shut down by the most intense unrest of the four month protest movement.
In the district of Mongkok, riot police burst from an unmarked van that had screeched up to a blockade made of bamboo scaffolding poles and quickly chased down multiple protesters who were pinned to the ground and detained.
Later a reporter in the same neighbourhood saw crowds of protesters beat a middle aged woman because she had helped police clear barricades.
The woman was struck with fists and umbrellas and also had her face smeared with mud.
Protester mobs have increasingly turned on their ideological opponents in recent weeks — while Beijing loyalists have attacked democracy activists throughout the summer.
In Tai Po district, officers charged into a mall where protesters had tagged a number of businesses with slogans. A nearby government office had also been vandalised.
Police said tear gas was fired in two districts while flashmobs and brief clashes were witnessed in at least four other locations.
In online forums used to organise the largely leaderless movement, protesters had given Sunday’s rally the theme “blossom everywhere” encouraging activists to gather in malls across the city.
While the crowds were smaller, the cat and mouse tactics stretched police resources thin and were still able to bring chaos to parts of the city in what was a 19th consecutive weekend of protest.
Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2019