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Hong Kong people take to streets, malls in show of public anger

Hong Kong protest Tsuen Wan district (Studio Incendo/WikiCommons)
October 03, 2019

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

Anti-government protesters once more took to the streets and shopping malls of Hong Kong in spite of some train services and subway stations remaining closed following city-wide clashes on China’s Oct. 1 National Day.

Hundreds of white-collar workers gathered for a lunch-break protest in the Central business district on Wednesday, chanting “Five demands! Not one less!” that has become the rallying cry of a movement now intent on fully democratic elections and holding the authorities to account.

The protesters also raised their palms to represent the five demands of full democracy, an amnesty for the thousands of protesters arrested since June, an end to the official description of protesters as “rioters”, an independent inquiry into police violence and the formal withdrawal of a legal bill that would enable extradition to mainland China.

The rally participants then left the area, marching along and occupying a major road on the way to government headquarters in Admiralty, setting up roadblocks.

Across the harbor in Kowloon, hundreds of people gathered in the Festival Walk shopping mall, shouting “Reclaim Hong Kong! Revolution in our time!” and calling on the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam to accede to protesters’ demands.

One participant, a student from Hong Kong Baptist University, said the police were abusing their power in their use of force against protesters.

“The police, as an organization that legally possesses firearms, are responsible for maintaining law and order,” the student said. “They aren’t judges, and can’t pass sentence on anyone, not even the demonstrators or so-called ‘rioters’.”

“Their greatest power should be that of arrest, not of administering summary justice on the quiet,” he said.

Crowds also gathered in and around the New Territories town of Shatin, crowding into New Town Plaza, as well as Macpherson Place in Mong Kok in protest at Tsang’s shooting.

Meanwhile, a barricade in the new town of Tuen Mun blazed away into the night, a livestream from the Chinese-language Apple Daily newspaper showed.

China-linked businesses targeted

Protesters also targeted businesses linked to China, or that had expressed a pro-government stance during the protests, as well as Mass Transit Rail (MTR) stations after the corporation shut down an entire line on Tuesday.

Chung Kim-wah, assistant professor of social policy at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said many people are still angry about the mass closure of MTR stations on Tuesday.

He warned that protester violence could also escalate if the government continued to ignore public demands.

“Most of the 20 people who spoke at last week’s public dialogue [with Lam] mentioned this, but they have done nothing,” Chung said. “The government isn’t taking the initiative, coupled with the fact that students are being shot with live ammunition.”

“Will the police do it again?” he said. “Next time the demonstrators may have more reasons to go further, so I am worried that the violence will get worse.”

Pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting called on Lam’s administration to address protesters’ demands or risk the situation getting out of control.

“I am very, very worried,” he said. “I hope that Lam’s administration will respond to the five major demands of the people as soon as possible, so as to de-escalate on both sides.”

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 by withdrawing the planned legislation.

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.