Protests in Hong Kong again turned violent following more than a week of peace and no tear gas being fired by police.
After Saturday and Sunday marches ended in two neighborhoods, clashes between police and protesters grew violent during the night.
On Sunday, several police officers drew their pistols and pointed them at a crowd of protesters and journalists. One reportedly fired a warning shot in the air.
And for the first time, police escalated their tactics by deploying two water cannon vehicles and armored vehicles on Sunday in an attempt to clear crowds.
Another Large-Scale Protest
Roughly a month ago, local pro-democracy organizers applied for a march to be held in the Tsuen Wan district on Aug. 25, to call for the government to respond to protesters’ five demands. Protests that initially ignited over a since-suspended extradition bill has since broadened to include an independent inquiry into police use of force toward protesters and universal suffrage.
Police rejected the application on Aug. 23. The organizers then filed an appeal, and finally reached an agreement with the police on Aug. 24 after changing the march route.
At 3 p.m. local time, the march began. People flooded the streets despite that the Hong Kong metro system, the MTR, temporarily closed three nearby stations in advance. The nearest operating station was about a mile away from the march site.
Two days prior, the MTR, which is owned by the city government, applied to the Hong Kong High Court for a temporary injunction to partially suspend service, citing foreseeable disruptions due to protests. The ban will be effective until Aug. 30.
The MTR applied for the injunction just days after the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, an agency that oversees China’s security apparatus, criticized the MTR for “assisting rioters,” via a message on its official Weibo, a Twitter-like social media platform. Chinese state-run media such as People’s Daily and CCTV also chimed in, saying that the MTR should be punished.
Both organizers and police did not provide an estimate for how many participated in the protest.
At around 4:10 p.m., event organizers said that police had abruptly called for the demonstration to disband ahead of schedule. Many refused to leave.
Soon after 5 p.m., riot police started to confront the crowd at some street corners, in an attempt to clear the area. Tensions rose as the two sides clashed. At about 5:30 p.m., police began to fire tear gas. Then, two water-cannon vehicles arrived at Tsuen Wan and shot water at barricades that protesters set up.
After 6 p.m., police began to arrest protesters, including a 12-year-old boy. Armored vehicles later arrived.
The city’s Hospital Authority said that as of 11:30 p.m. local time on Aug. 25, 22 people had been transported to hospitals; one man was said to be in serious condition, while 12 are stable and nine others had been discharged.
Police did not disclose how many protesters were arrested in total.
First Shot Fired
Just after 8 p.m., outside of the Tai Hung Fai shopping center, witnesses heard a shot fired.
In video footage recorded from the scene, several protesters are seen hitting a police car with sticks. Two police officers, equipped with shields and batons, yell at them to leave. The protesters refuse to back down and begin to throw objects at them.
The two officers then fall back to join a group of five officers who are on a nearby street.
As more protesters surround and throw more objects at the officers, six of the police in the group take out their service weapons. One is said to have fired it into the air.
Leung Kwok Win, a police commander for the New Territories district, told reporters that the officers drew their guns because they believed their lives were at risk.
Since June, Hongkongers have protested on the streets almost every weekend.
Thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Kwun Tong in the eastern part of Kowloon Peninsula on Saturday, with some also voicing their opposition to the government’s installation of “smart lamp posts,” which they suspect could be used for surveillance or facial recognition.
Some protesters tore down lamp posts and photographed the electronics parts inside to publish online after Tony Wong, a government information officer, confirmed back in July that each post was fitted with a high-quality camera for monitoring for illegal dumping of waste. But he told local broadcaster RTHK, “we have not activated them” due to the public’s concerns.
Demonstrators clashed with police outside the Ngau Tau Kok police station, where protesters were reportedly throwing petrol bombs and bricks at police who responded with tear gas and bean bag rounds to disperse the crowds.
In the neighboring district of Wong Tai Sin, police also fired tear gas to clear protesters. And in nearby Kowloon Bay, a protester’s left eye was hit by a rubber pellet during the clashes.
Tam, a protester who was at the scene in Kwun Tong, told The Epoch Times that he witnessed a fellow protester with blood all over his face being dragged away by police.
Amid the tear gas smoke, Tam said he would not back down. “I couldn’t leave my people behind.”
Epoch Times reporter Jeremy Sandberg and the Hong Kong bureau of The Epoch Times contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times