For the eighth straight week, protesters in Hong Kong gathered over the weekend in response to last week’s attacks by white shirted men. The demonstrators faced off with police and were eventually dispersed by rubber bullets and tear gas from Yuen Long, the area where the alleged “triads” attacked departing protesters, passengers and journalists.
At the height of the demonstration, the crowds swelled to tens of thousands, many hurling bricks and other projectiles at riot police. Unlike the demonstrations from weeks earlier, this one was not sanctioned by the authorities because police said they feared violent clashes between protesters and residents. Despite the banning of the assembly, the protesters showed up in huge numbers and began removing fences from roads and vandalising police vehicles while carrying umbrellas, iron poles, and shields. As the confrontations became more chaotic Saturday evening, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas leaving twenty-three people injured, with two in serious condition. Police also arrested eleven people.
On Sunday another gathering was organized at a park in Hong Kong’s central business district. Protesters blocked major streets and split off in several directions. Protester Edward Ng told Al Jazeera, “The police usually surround us and we have nowhere to go. So we adjust our strategy this time. This is much more fluid and flexible.” At some point an elderly woman was filmed getting in between protesters and police, yelling for them to leave. She was escorted away from police by protesters while screaming for them to not fire bullets at young people.
A large group of demonstrators headed towards the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region but were stopped by hundreds of riot police, heavily fortified with water-filled plastic barricades. A clear plastic shield had been erected around the Chinese national emblem above its front doors. “Everyone knows very well that the current Hong Kong government has been controlled by some outside forces, like those in the Liaison Office,” an activist surnamed Chan told Al Jazeera. “Now Hong Kong doesn’t even have basic freedom of assembly. We have come here to make a symbolic expression.”
For the first time since its establishment in 1997, the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office held a press briefing regarding the demonstrations in the city. “No civilization or society under the rule of law would ever allow acts of violence to take place. We call on the general public of Hong Kong to be aware of the grave nature of the current situation,” Yang Guang, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office spokesman said, calling on Hong Kong citizens to condemn protester violence. “Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s affairs are China’s domestic affairs,” he added. Hong Kong has been governed under a “one country, two systems” model since the city transferred from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Yang also used the event as an opportunity to restate China’s support for Chief Executive Carrie Lam, and the city’s police force.
According to the Guardian, Chinese state-run newspaper the People’s Daily, commented situation in Hong Kong, “Facing these circumstances the Hong Kong government and police should not have any hesitation or any ‘psychological burden’ — do what needs to be done.” The article called on the police to “punish lawbreakers regardless of whether they hold up the banner of ‘freedom and democracy’ or wear the cap of ‘civil disobedience.’”
The AFP quoted an editorial in another Chinese state-run newspaper, China Daily, that blamed foreign countries of interfering, “What is happening in Hong Kong is no longer the airing of real or imagined grievances,It is of the same hue as the colour revolutions that were instigated in the Middle East and North Africa — local anti-government elements colluding with external forces to topple governments utilising modern communication technology to spread rumours, distrust and fear.”
In a front-page article in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily on Monday, the paper also criticized the Civil Human Rights Front, a group in Hong Kong that has organized mass marches against the extradition bill.“[China] will never allow any foreign forces to collaborate with the internal forces, endanger Hong Kong’s development, and trample on ‘one country, two systems’,” the article said.