Hong Kong police fire teargas and water cannon at protesters

Police fire multiple rounds, protesters respond by throwing bricks and using slingshots

 

Hong Kong police fired tear gas and water cannon on Saturday as pro-democracy protesters threw petrol bombs in the latest in a series of clashes that have plunged the Chinese-ruled city into its worst political crisis in decades.

Police fired multiple rounds of tear gas as protesters took cover behind umbrellas between the local headquarters of China’s People’s Liberation Army and government HQ.

Protesters also threw bricks at police.

The water cannon fired blue-dyed water, traditonally used elsewhere in the world to make it easier for police to identify protesters later.

Riot police then marched on foot towards the neighbouring Admiralty district, followed by about 20 police cars, where some protesters had thrown fire bombs.

Others shone blue and green lasers at police lines.

A protester (centre) wearing a gas mask throws tear gas back after police fired tear gas during an anti-government rally in Hong Kong, on Saturday. Photograph: EPA
A protester (centre) wearing a gas mask throws tear gas back after police fired tear gas during an anti-government rally in Hong Kong, on Saturday. Photograph: EPA

The violence came on the fifth anniversary of a decision by China to curtail democratic reforms in the former British colony, which returned to China in 1997.

The PLA on Thursday rotated its troops in Hong Kong in what it said was a routine operation. Their Hong Kong HQ was the former base of the British military garrison.

Thousands took to the streets in the afternoon on a largely peaceful, meandering rally in the rain, many joining a “Christian march” from the Wanchai entertainment district and congregating next to the Legislative Council, stormed by activists in an earlier protest.

A protester wearing a gas mask throws back a tear gas after police fired tear gas during an anti-government rally in Hong Kong. Photograph: EPA
A protester wearing a gas mask throws back a tear gas after police fired tear gas during an anti-government rally in Hong Kong. Photograph: EPA

Other demonstrators, many wearing black and face masks, marched in the Causeway Bay shopping district.

It was the latest in a string of protests over three months, some of which have turned violent, targeting the airport, the legislature and the Liaison Office, the symbol of Chinese rule.

“Hong Kong has religious freedom,” Sally Yeung (27) a Christian, told Reuters. “We are praying at different check points and praying for justice to arrive in Hong Kong.

“If they prosecute us simply because we are praying, they infringe our religious freedom.”

Police fire a water cannon towards protesters near the government headquarters in Hong Kong. Photograph: Getty
Police fire a water cannon towards protesters near the government headquarters in Hong Kong. Photograph: Getty

Hovering under an umbrella outside the government offices, Eric, a 22-year-old student, said telling people not to protest was like telling them not to breathe.

“I feel it’s my duty to fight for democracy,” he said. “Maybe we win, maybe we lose. But we fight.”

Police erected water-filled plastic barriers around key government buildings and two water cannon, used briefly for the first time last weekend, were at the ready near the Liaison Office, which was daubed with graffiti in an earlier protest.

The MTR subway suspended some services and shut station exits because of likely “public activities”.

A protester fires a makeshift slingshot near the government headquarters in Hong Kong on Saturday. Photograph: Getty
A protester fires a makeshift slingshot near the government headquarters in Hong Kong on Saturday. Photograph: Getty

Police arrested a number of prominent pro-democracy activists and three lawmakers on Friday, seeking to rein in a movement which started with anger over planned legislation allowing extraditions to mainland China.

It soon broadened into calls for democracy amid fears China is squeezing Hong Kong’s freedoms.

But the latest protests have no leaders. The slogan is “be like water”, meaning be flexible. Marchers on Saturday were marching here and there, wherever streets took them, communicating with different hand signals and chanting “stand with Hong Kong” and “fight for freedom”.

China denies the charge of meddling in Hong Kong, which it says is an internal affair. It has denounced the protests and warned of the damage to the economy.

China is eager to quell the unrest before the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1 but protesters vandalised a long red banner celebrating the event to cheers from the crowd. - Reuters