Hong Kong protests flare de­spite bill’s with­drawal

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Kin Che­ung

HONG KONG — Hong Kong pro­test­ers be­sieged a po­lice sta­tion and a sub­way stop Fri­day, prompt­ing po­lice to fire tear gas and rub­ber bul­lets as new vi­o­lence erupted de­spite the gov­ern­ment’s prom­ise to drop a pro­posed law that sparked months of demon­stra­tions in the semi­au­tonomous Chi­nese ter­ri­tory.

About 2,000 an­gry pro­test­ers sur­rounded the po­lice sta­tion in the crowded, work­ing-class district of Mong Kok late Fri­day for a se­cond straight night, de­mand­ing ac­count­abil­ity over a vi­o­lent po­lice raid on the nearby Prince Ed­ward sub­way sta­tion on Aug. 31.

Po­lice set up bar­ri­ers at the en­trance of the po­lice sta­tion and later fired tear gas and rub­ber bul­lets to ward off the crowd, many of whom wore masks and used um­brel­las to shield them­selves.

Ru­mors have been cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia ac­cus­ing po­lice of cov­er­ing up the al­leged death of a protester dur­ing the ear­lier raid at the sub­way sta­tion. Videos taken then show po­lice swing­ing ba­tons and shoot­ing pep­per spray at peo­ple in­side a stopped train. Pro­test­ers want sur­veil­lance cam­era record­ings of the raid to be re­leased.

The demon­stra­tors re­treated af­ter riot po­lice con­fronted them with more tear gas but re­fused to leave. Some set off street fires with piles of car­ton boxes while oth­ers used sticks and me­tal rods to smash traf­fic lights and the me­tal roof­ing at an­other sub­way stop.

Au­thor­i­ties were ear­lier forced to shut the Prince Ed­ward sub­way sta­tion dur­ing the evening rush hour af­ter demon­stra­tors protested there against the al­leged po­lice vi­o­lence.

Sep­a­rately, more than 1,000 peo­ple gath­ered Fri­day night at a pub­lic park near Hong Kong’s leg­isla­tive com­plex, chant­ing “Fight for free­dom.” Med­i­cal work­ers ral­lied ear­lier at the of­fice of the hos­pi­tal au­thor­ity.

Hong Kong leader Car­rie Lam an­nounced two days ago that her gov­ern­ment will for­mally with­draw an ex­tra­di­tion bill that would have al­lowed Hong Kong res­i­dents to be sent to main­land China for trial. Many saw it as a glar­ing ex­am­ple of the city’s erod­ing au­ton­omy since the for­mer British colony re­turned to Chi­nese con­trol in 1997.

The protest move­ment was trig­gered by the ex­tra­di­tion bill, but the fo­cus has since shifted to al­leged ex­ces­sive use of force by po­lice in the vi­o­lent clashes and to other is­sues.

Pro­test­ers have adopted a new slogan: “Five key de­mands, not one less.” They want an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the al­le­ga­tions of po­lice bru­tal­ity, the un­con­di­tional re­lease of those de­tained, no more la­bel­ing of the protests as ri­ots, and di­rect elec­tions of the city’s lead­ers.

Lam has re­jected those de­mands, say­ing a po­lice watch­dog agency in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­lice mis­con­duct was cred­i­ble. Crit­ics say the agency is led by her al­lies and doesn’t have the power to sum­mon wit­nesses.

Po­lice say they have used the min­i­mum amount of force nec­es­sary to quell ri­otous demon­stra­tions. The city is brac­ing for more protests over the week­end, in­clud­ing re­ported plans to tar­get the air­port again on Satur­day.

KIN CHE­UNG/AP

Fire­fight­ers put out a fire set by pro­test­ers dur­ing a demon­stra­tion Fri­day in Mong Kok, in Hong Kong. About 2,000 an­gry pro­test­ers sur­rounded the po­lice sta­tion in the district.

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