Hong Kong po­lice break up protests with tear gas, force

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - NATION & WORLD - By Alice Fung and Katie Tam

HONG KONG — Hong Kong po­lice on Sat­ur­day fired tear gas, swung ba­tons and force­fully cleared out protesters who de­fied warn­ings not to march in a neigh­bor­hood where last week­end a mob ap­par­ently tar­get­ing demon­stra­tors bru­tally at­tacked peo­ple in a train sta­tion.

Protesters wear­ing all black streamed through the Yuen Long area, even though po­lice re­fused to grant per­mis­sion for the march, cit­ing risks of con­fronta­tions be­tween demon­stra­tors and lo­cal res­i­dents.

By night­fall, protesters and po­lice were again fac­ing off in the streets, as they’ve done pre­vi­ously dur­ing the sum­mer-long pro-democ­racy protests in the Chi­nese ter­ri­tory. Demon­stra­tors threw ob­jects and ducked be­hind makeshift shields, and po­lice of­fi­cers shot plumes of tear gas into the air.

For the protesters, it was a show of de­fi­ance against both the po­lice and the white-clad as­sailants who beat dozens of peo­ple July 21, in­clud­ing some demon­stra­tors head­ing home af­ter a mass protest.

The streets of Yuen Long be­came a sea of um­brel­las as the march be­gan Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon. A sym­bol go­ing back to the Oc­cupy Cen­tral protests that shook Hong Kong in 2014, um­brel­las have be­come tools to help protesters conceal their iden­ti­ties from po­lice cam­eras as well as shields against tear gas and pep­per spray. Some also wore masks.

“Hong Kong po­lice know the law and break the law,” protesters chanted as they made their way through the streets.

Less than three hours af­ter the start of the march, po­lice fired tear gas to try to dis­perse crowds that had ig­nored au­thor­i­ties’ ap­peals to leave the area. Po­lice said in a state­ment that they were clear­ing out the protesters, who were “hold­ing iron poles, self-made shields and even removing fences from roads.”

In the evening, of­fi­cers in riot gear faced off with protesters us­ing pieces of wood as shields. Live footage from broad­caster RTHK showed protesters on one street forc­ing back riot po­lice by throw­ing um­brel­las and wav­ing rods at them. On an­other street, of­fi­cers re­peat­edly raised warn­ings and fired tear gas at masked demon­stra­tors who were stand­ing their ground.

Soon af­ter­ward, many of the protesters dis­persed, but others stayed. A group of of­fi­cers ap­peared with ba­tons and held up ban­ners that read, “Stop charg­ing or we use force.”

Protesters later sur­rounded a smashed-up car. The win­dows of the car were shat­tered and its body was cov­ered with posters de­nounc­ing the po­lice. It was not im­me­di­ately clear who owned the ve­hi­cle or who de­stroyed it.

Later on, po­lice wear­ing heavy-duty hel­mets and wield­ing ba­tons sud­denly charged into the train sta­tion, where a few hun­dred protesters had taken refuge from the tear gas.

Some of­fi­cers swung their ba­tons di­rectly at demon­stra­tors, while others ap­peared to be urg­ing their col­leagues to hang back. For the sec­ond week in a row, blood was splat­tered on the sta­tion floor.

Mas­sive demon­stra­tions be­gan in Hong Kong in early June against an ex­tra­di­tion bill that would have al­lowed sus­pects to face trial in main­land China, where crit­ics say their rights would be com­pro­mised.

ERIC TSANG/HK01

A masked pro­tester runs from po­lice of­fi­cers dur­ing a protest Sat­ur­day in Hong Kong.

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