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Hong Kong police fire tear gas as angry crowd melts away like water

Hong Kong protests (Tango Chan/WikiCommons)
September 07, 2019

Hong Kong police on Friday once more fired tear gas at a fleeing crowd outside a subway station on Kowloon, who had gathered to demand the release of surveillance camera footage taken inside the station during a raid by a special police squad last weekend.

Thousands of people had gathered outside Prince Edward MTR Station to call on the Mass Transit Rail (MTR) Corp. to release surveillance footage of an attack by riot police.

Limited video footage posted to social media from Saturday night showed riot police launching indiscriminate attacks without any apparent lawful excuse and using pepper spray on passengers inside a train compartment or hitting them with batons, according to the Hong Kong Bar Association.

But journalists were forced to leave the station soon after the video was published, and there have been growing public calls for footage of what happened next.

The demands to release the video footage also come amid persistent rumors that somebody died during the attack, something that police have repeatedly denied.

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Some protesters held up signs on Friday saying “Everyone has the right to know the truth.”

One woman wept and screamed at the police and the MTR station: “Why are you so cruel? These young people are really well-behaved and high-minded!”

Station closes as thousands gather

Prince Edward MTR station was closed at the height of the evening rush hour amid widespread public anger over an attack on train passengers by police in full riot gear last Saturday night, after which dozens of people were arrested.

The MTR said the move was to ensure the safety of passengers and staff.

Thousands of people gathered at a nearby intersection between Nathan Road and Prince Edward Road in the busy shopping district of Mong Kok.

Police cordoned off the station with two-meter high barriers, while officers aimed rifles at the crowd from elevated positions and issued warnings that they would shoot rubber bullets and tear gas, government broadcaster RTHK reported.

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Some protesters forced open the MTR station shutters and charged in, vandalizing some equipment, while others remained outside, chanting anti-police slogans. Still others knelt down to beg MTR bosses to release the video footage from inside the station during Saturday night’s attack.

The MTR Corp. has pledged to keep “relevant” footage from the station for three years in case it’s needed for any investigation. Ordinarily, it would be wiped after 28 days, RTHK reported.

Icarus Wong, a member of the Civil Rights Observer group, said the police have a track record of using excessive force since the anti-extradition protests began in early June.

“There needs to be a full investigation into the incident at Prince Edward MTR station on Aug. 31, to determine who is responsible,” Wong told RFA.

Appeal for international help

Earlier in the day, a protester surnamed Leung told a news conference that the movement is now seeking international assistance because of the humanitarian and civil rights crisis in Hong Kong.

The protesters also dismissed Wednesday’s pledge by chief executive Carrie Lam to formally withdraw planned amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance that would have allowed extradition to China.

“The announcement that they would withdraw the bill was really just a spoonful of sugar to help the poison go down,” Leung said. “This is being viewed in a number of quarters as merely paving the way for an even more brutal crackdown.”

“Once more, we would like to say to the international community, many of whom think that Carrie Lam’s withdrawal announcement was the first step in re-establishing trust, how can we talk about trust when we are faced with a murderous regime?”

“Just saying she’s going to withdraw the bill isn’t going to get the people of Hong Kong to withdraw,” Leung said. “Neither will it persuade people of good conscience around the world to turn a blind eye to what is happening here in Hong Kong.”

Lam on Wednesday announced her government’s intention to remove the planned amendments to extradition laws from gazetted draft legislation, a move that can only take place when the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo) reopens in October following the storming of the building by protesters on July 1.

But the move was quickly slammed by protesters as “too little, too late” after months of police violence and government inaction.

As well as formal withdrawal of the extradition bill, the anti-extradition movement is also demanding an amnesty for more than 1,200 people arrested during the protests, an end to the description of protesters as “rioters,” and fully democratic elections for LegCo and for the post of chief executive.