Hong Kong police fire tear gas at protesters in shopping district

Hong Kong police fired tear gas at protesters in the Causeway Bay shopping district. Photo by the Reuters. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.


HONG KONG, Sep 29, 2019, The Straits Times. Hong Kong police fired tear gas at protesters in the Causeway Bay shopping district on Sunday (Sept 29) after crowds surrounded police officers who made some arrests. The clash marked the second day in a row that violence has broken out as democracy campaigners step up their rallies ahead of China’s 70th national day on Tuesday, reported The Straits Times.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement is preparing for what it calls a “Global Anti-Totalitarianism March”. Following a call on the Internet, solidarity marches are taking place in at least 64 cities around the world, in countries including the United States, Japan and Malaysia.

The Singapore Police Force issued a statement on Saturday saying it will not grant any permit for assemblies that advocate the political causes of other countries.

In Hong Kong, protesters gathered outside the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay and, shortly after 2.30pm, began to march to government headquarters, about 2.4km away. Organisers have not sought police permission for the procession.

Ahead of the march, the Sogo and World Trade Centre shopping malls have been shut.

Security has also been stepped up around government headquarters, where the march is scheduled to end, with metal fences built in front of water-filled barricades, public broadcaster RTHK reported. A water cannon has also been spotted in the vicinity.

Protesters are also planning to gather at a mall in the upscale Kowloon Tong neighbourhood for a “window shopping” protest.

Previous such outings resulted in protesters staging mall sit-ins. At Sha Tin’s New Town Plaza last week, activists also targeted restaurants run by the Maxim catering group, jamming their table reservation system and using queue tickets to form streamers that were hung across the mall.

Meanwhile, pro-Beijing supporters in Hong Kong countered Sunday’s planned protests with their own rally near Victoria Harbour, where they sang the Chinese national anthem and waved the national flag, AP reported.

On Saturday night, an approved evening rally to mark the fifth anniversary of the Umbrella Movement, which called for universal suffrage, was cut short after small groups of protesters threw Molotov cocktails, bricks and rocks at government buildings. Police responded with tear gas and water cannon, spraying protesters with a blue dye.

Into its 17th weekend, the protests which escalated in June over a now-suspended extradition Bill show no signs of slowing down, with demonstrators now calling for electoral reforms, amid other demands.

In response to calls for universal suffrage at Saturday’s rally, the government said the “one person, one vote” principle for selecting the Chief Executive and electing all members of the Legislative Council is “enshrined as an ultimate aim in the Basic Law” of the territory.

“To achieve this aim, the community needs to engage in dialogues, premised on the legal basis and under a peaceful atmosphere with mutual trust, with a view to narrowing differences and attaining a consensus agreeable to all sides,” the government said in a statement.

“The Hong Kong government will assess the situation carefully and take forward constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law and the relevant Interpretation and Decisions of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress,” it added.

Besides universal suffrage, the other four key demands of protesters are: complete withdrawal of the extradition Bill; the release of all protesters arrested; removing the label of protests as “riots”; and an independent judge-led inquiry into allegations of police brutality.

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