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Hong Kong police fire tear gas at protesters in tourist district

  • 3 Aug 2019

Anti-government demonstrators have kicked off a new mass protest, defying increasingly stern warnings from China over weeks-long unrest that has plunged the city into crisis.

An anti-extradition bill protester walks among tear gas as they attend a march in Hong Kong, China, August 4, 2019. ( Reuters )

Hong Kong riot police fired repeated tear gas rounds on Saturday evening at pro-democracy protesters in a popular tourist district, as violence rocked the international finance hub once more despite increasingly stern warnings from China.

The semi-autonomous southern Chinese financial hub has seen two months of protests and clashes triggered by opposition to a planned extradition law that quickly evolved into a wider movement for democratic reforms.

Authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing this week signalled a hardening stance, including with the arrests of dozens of protesters, and the Chinese military saying it was ready to quell the "intolerable" unrest if requested.

But protesters have remained unyielding, vowing to hold multiple occupations and rallies in the coming days.

Saturday’s violence — the ninth consecutive weekend of clashes — took place in Tsim Sha Tsui, a usually bustling harbourside district known for its luxury malls and hotels. 

Officers with gas masks and shields charged at hundreds of protesters who had been besieging a nearby police station. 

Masked demonstrators had smashed the windows of cars in the police parking lot and daubed nearby walls with graffiti. 

One team of protesters created a large slingshot — held up by two members — to launch bricks at the building. 

Police fired volleys of tear gas followed by repeated baton charges with multiple arrests made. 

But standoffs continued into the evening with small groups of hardcore protesters trying to hold their ground behind makeshift shield walls. 

Earlier in the day tens of thousands of protesters had marched through nearby streets, embracing their mantra “be water” -- a philosophy of unpredictability espoused by local martial arts legend Bruce Lee.

TRT World spoke to journalist Samantha Vadas in Hong Kong for more.

Mong Kok, a gritty working-class neighbourhood in the Kowloon section of the city, was the scene of some of the most violent clashes during pro-democracy protests in 2014.

Thousands of supporters of Hong Kong's police, mostly wearing white, gathered for a separate rally on Saturday in Victoria Park in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong island.

Support for police

"I really feel upset about the violence that we are seeing in Hong Kong every day. The protesters are now not listening to the government, they are not listening to the police," said Evan, 27, who works for a foreign bank in Hong Kong and turned out in support of police.

"People have a right to express their opinion in a peaceful manner. We will continue to support the police and the authorities to implement the rule of law here."

Further anti-government protests were scheduled for Sunday, with activists calling for a mass strike on Monday.

On Friday evening in central Hong Kong, thousands of civil servants defied a warning from authorities to remain politically neutral and joined anti-government protests for the first time since they started two months ago.

In Washington on Friday, a bipartisan group of US lawmakers called on the Trump administration to halt future sales of munitions and crowd-control equipment to Hong Kong's police force, which has been accused of using excessive force against protesters.

Under Chinese rule, Hong Kong has been allowed to retain extensive freedoms, such as an independent judiciary, but many residents see the extradition bill as the latest step in a relentless march towards mainland control.

The protests are the most serious political crisis in Hong Kong since it returned to China 22 years ago.

They also pose the greatest popular challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he took office in 2012 and come as Xi grapples with an escalating trade war with the US and a slowing economy in a politically sensitive year.

On October 1, China will mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the people's republic.

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