Thousands defy ban to protest against gov’t in Hong Kong

HONG KONG, Kyodo - Protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to once again voice their anger at the government, with several incidents of vandalism and arson reported.

In defiance of a police ban and a new anti-mask law, people mostly clad in black and wearing facemasks took to the streets in the Kowloon Peninsula, protesting against what they regard as government negligence of their demands. The march organizer said at least 350,000 people took part.

They moved along major thoroughfares in the area while avoiding the West Kowloon high-speed rail terminus, the original endpoint where a heavy police presence was seen.

Banks, automated teller machines, a bookstore and shops with perceived links to China as well as traffic lights and subway stations along Nathan Road were vandalized. Many shops and other commercial establishments were closed for the day in anticipation of clashes between police and protesters.

Some hard-core protesters threw petrol bombs at the Tsim Sha Tsui police station, while police fired rounds of tear gas in return. Tear gas was also fired at protesters near the Mong Kok police station farther north.

A water cannon truck was deployed to disperse the demonstrators who set roadblocks on fire along Nathan Road, local media footage showed.

The cat-and-mouse encounters between protesters and police carried on in Mong Kok district into the night. At least six people, aged between 21 and 73, were injured, hospital figures showed.

A wooden box suspected to be a makeshift bomb was found at a crossroad in Prince Edward in northern Kowloon, local reports said. A bomb squad robot was deployed to defuse it, with no injuries reported.

“I worry about the escalating violence too, but if the government doesn’t do a thing, what can you do?” said a 63-year-old grandmother who identified herself as M before joining the march.

She cited reports of excessive use of force by police against unarmed citizens and protesters’ claims of torture while in police custody are proof that the police force needs an overhaul.

The protests, which began in June, were originally against a planned extradition law that would allow fugitive transfer to mainland China.

The protesters’ demands have widened to include an independent inquiry into police brutality, pardons for all those arrested and democratic reform.

While agreeing to withdraw the bill, Lam has rejected the other demands. She also held community dialogues that she hoped would quell public anger.

“What Lam did was useless. None of our (other) demands have been met,” said university graduate Emily Cheung, 22. “Police violence against the people is unchecked, even facing accusations after accusations, never once have they admitted to wrongdoing.” (Kyodo)



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