Tear gas, bricks fly as Hong Kong police clash with protesters in Wanchai

Protesters surrounded by smoke from tear gas fired by police in Hong Kong on Oct 20, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

HONG KONG, Nov 2, 2019, The Straits Times. Hong Kong police and protesters on Saturday (Nov 2) faced off on the streets of Wanchai, with multiple volleys of tear gas fired after protesters tossed bricks and Molotov cocktails at officers, as protests in the city enter its 22nd weekend, The The Straits Times reported.

Police fired tear gas in Victoria Park where hundreds gathered on the pretext of local elections hustings to defy a ban on a planned march beginning from the venue.

Warning protesters to leave the park, police called the gathering – where some have been violating the ban on face masks – illegal.

“Police warn all protesters to leave immediately and stop occupying the road. Police also appeal to the public not to participate in the public meeting. Disperse and arrest action will be taken as appropriate,” police said in a statement.

An earlier planned march to call on international support for Hong Kong was banned by the police, citing previous marches that start out peaceful but descend into violence.

Crowds still gathered at the park anyway saying they were there to campaign for the upcoming local elections. According to Hong Kong’s law, electoral campaign events do not require special permits.

Urging more people to take part in this weekend’s protest, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong told reporters on Friday: “If more and more people, not only a few thousand, but if more than 100,000 Hong Kongers take to the streets tomorrow, it can let the world know how Hong Kong people fight for a free election.”

Mr Wong was disqualified this week from standing in the upcoming district elections, a move he said was “clearly politically driven”.

At the Park, two men were giving out black T-shirts with the words “Free Hong Kong” while others mingled around under a clear blue sky in mild weather.

A few candidates for this month’s district council elections had set up banners in a field, giving out flyers and talking to members of the public while others gathered holding up the British flag and Hong Kong’s colonial flag.

But about an hour before the planned start time of 3pm, riot police showed up at Causeway Bay, the busy shopping district adjacent to Victoria Park.

When some members of the public started heckling police, they arrested at least one man.

Shortly after 3pm, hundreds clad in black and wearing now-banned face masks marched through the shopping district towards the park.

Police fired a dozen rounds of tear gas, and many protesters dispersed into the nearby neighbourhood of Tin Hau where they built barricades using metal rails from the park. Overhead, a government helicopter hovered.

Meanwhile, at least three other events are planned in other parts of the city.

A paper crane folding event kicked off at 5pm at Chater Garden in Central but was ordered to end early and people were told to leave, while a rally in support of Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was set to take place at the same time at nearby Edinburgh Place.

Across Victoria Harbour at Tsim Sha Tsui, a mass sing-along has also received the green light from authorities.

Protests in the city, which escalated in June over a now-suspended extradition Bill, have since evolved into an outpouring of anger against local authorities and a call for greater democracy.

The city has been hard hit by the unrest, with official figures on Thursday showing that Hong Kong is now in technical recession after its economy contracted over two consecutive quarters.

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