Hong Kong police break up protests with tear gas, force
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.
A masked protester runs from police officers during a protest Saturday in Hong Kong.