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Police fire more tear gas in Hong Kong during weekend of protests

Hong Kong police fire tear gas at protesters (Pasu Au Yeung/WikiCommons)
September 23, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Hong Kong police fired tear gas for the second day of clashes that saw protesters set fire to barricades and throw Molotov cocktails and bricks at police following earlier peaceful, anti-government demonstrations.

Protesters set fire to barricades outside a shopping mall in the New Territories town of Shatin on Sunday, lobbing bricks and a Molotov cocktail back at police after tear gas was fired.

The clashes followed an earlier, peaceful sit-in in the glitzy New Town Plaza mall, which targeted mainland Chinese brands and Maxim’s, a local cake chain that had criticized the protest movement.

Police arrested a 21-year-old man for “desecrating the national flag” after protesters danced in a line, trampling a flag of the People’s Republic of China underfoot, before throwing it in a trash can into the nearby Shing Mun river, live video footage showed.

The Mass Transit Rail Corp. shut down Shatin, Tsing Yi, Kwai Fong and Kowloon stations after some protesters vandalized ticket machines in protest at the corporation’s willingness to shut down train services in recent weeks to prevent street protests in different parts of the city from swelling.

The city’s Airport Authority cut back transportation to the international airport, citing “safety concerns” after previous mass protests there, with airport express trains running a reduced service.

Security at the airport was tight on Sunday, with a heavy police presence in a number of subway stations too, local media reported.

Thousands of people flooded into Yoho Mall in the New Territories distict of Yuen Long to mark two months since vicious attacks by triad-linked thugs in white T-shirts on protesters and passengers in and around Yuen Long MTR station.

Police officers who showed up at the scene were jeered by protesters, who are angry at police for responding slowly and not moving in to prevent the attacks that left dozens injured on July 21.

“The main reason for most of the clashes is that the police have been arresting people for no reason,” Yuen said. “They do this so as to provoke peaceful demonstrators.”

Barricades and blocked stations

Meanwhile, Patrick Nip, the constitutional and mainland affairs secretary in the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam, was surrounded by around 50 protesters on his way to a Beijing-sponsored reception, who threw traffic cones, drinks, sandbags and trash cans at his car.

One protester struck the windshield with a metal pole, cracking the glass, government broadcaster RTHK reported.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, protesters in Tseung Kwan O district broke windows in the local police station, setting up barricades in the street outside and spraying police officers with water from a nearby residential building.

Sunday’s renewed protests came after protesters blocked a part of Kowloon’s Nathan Road on Saturday night, as protesters gathered at Prince Edward MTR station, scene of attacks on unarmed passengers by riot police earlier this month.

Riot police stood by as protesters placed flowers at makeshift shrines to unknown victims who are rumored to have died in the attack, then removed the shrines, only for protesters to rebuild them.

Police have repeatedly denied that any deaths occurred in the Aug. 31 raid on stationary trains and on nearby platforms.

Protests that erupted in June in Hong Kong against plans by the city’s government to allow extradition to mainland China have grown into a broader movement, even after Lam pledged to scrap the plan.

The protesters’ five key demands are: the formal withdrawal of planned amendments to extradition laws; an amnesty for arrested protesters; an end to the description of protesters as rioters; an independent inquiry into police abuse of power; and fully democratic elections.