Hong Kong protesters set fires, tram­ple Chi­nese flag

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Katie Tam

HONG KONG — Protesters in Hong Kong tram­pled a Chi­nese flag, van­dal­ized two sub­way sta­tions and set at least two street fires Sun­day, as prodemoc­racy demon­stra­tions took a vi­o­lent turn once again.

The day’s ac­tion be­gan peace­fully, as protesters filled a shop­ping mall and, in a new twist, folded pa­per “origami” cranes that they tied onto a large rig­ging they as­sem­bled in the mall in the out­ly­ing Shatin district.

Some put a Chi­nese flag on the floor and took turns run­ning over it, be­fore de­fac­ing it and putting it in a dump­ster out­side, which they then pushed into a nearby river.

Hong Kong’s pro-democ­racy protests, now in their fourth month, have of­ten de­scended into vi­o­lence late in the day and at night. A hard-core group of protesters says the ex­treme ac­tions are needed to get the gov­ern­ment’s at­ten­tion. On Satur­day, po­lice used tear gas and rub­ber rounds against protesters who threw gaso­line bombs to­ward them and set fires in streets.

As Sun­day’s protest at Shatin New Town Plaza wound down, some protesters at­tacked a sub­way sta­tion con­nected to the mall. They jumped up to smash over­head sur­veil­lance cam­eras, used hammers to knock ticket sen­sors off gates and spray­painted and broke the screens of ticket ma­chines, us­ing um­brel­las to shield their iden­ti­ties.

Riot po­lice ar­rived af­ter the at­tack and guarded the sta­tion af­ter it was closed, with a metal grill pulled down to block en­try.

Out­side, protesters built a bar­ri­cade across a street near the mall, piled what ap­peared to be palm fronds on top and set them on fire.

Po­lice fired tear gas as they tried to ad­vance on the protesters, who took po­si­tions be­hind a wall of hand­held um­brel­las be­fore end­ing their demon­stra­tion.

Ear­lier, the protesters at the mall chanted slo­gans and sang a song that has be­come their an­them, backed by a small group play­ing on wood­wind and brass in­stru­ments through their masks. Many lined the balustrade­s of the three higher floors over­look­ing where others gath­ered in the wide space be­low.

A se­ries of small skir­mishes broke out Sun­day night. Protesters van­dal­ized the Kwai Fong sub­way sta­tion, which was then closed. They also set a street fire in the city’s Mong Kok area that fire­fight­ers put out.

Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam, has agreed to with­draw an extraditio­n bill that sparked the protests in early June. But the anti-gov­ern­ment protesters are press­ing other de­mands, in­clud­ing fully demo­cratic elec­tions in the semi­au­tonomous Chi­nese ter­ri­tory and an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion of com­plaints about po­lice vi­o­lence dur­ing ear­lier demon­stra­tions.

Protesters say Bei­jing and Lam’s gov­ern­ment are erod­ing the “high de­gree of au­ton­omy” and Western-style civil lib­er­ties.

The un­end­ing protests are an em­bar­rass­ment for China’s Com­mu­nist Party ahead of Oct. 1 cel­e­bra­tions of its 70th an­niver­sary in power.

CHRIS MCGRATH/GETTY

Pas­sen­gers look out from a bus at a burn­ing bar­ri­cade lit by pro-democ­racy protesters dur­ing a protest Sun­day at a po­lice sta­tion in Hong Kong.

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