Hong Kong protesters move to luxury shopping district
HONG KONG — Demonstrators in Hong Kong moved en masse to a luxury shopping district Sunday evening after riot police used tear gas to clear out an area they were previously occupying, as the 2-month-old protest movement showed no signs of easing.
Clad in yellow helmets and black face masks, protesters squeezed out of a subway station in Causeway Bay, with a few people directing traffic and others holding open the turnstiles.
Surveillance cameras at the station were covered with black tape and umbrellas as protesters spilled out. Makeshift barricades were also erected in the area, which hosts high-end department stores and upscale restaurants.
The protesters made their move after police fired tear gas — a regular occurrence at the demonstrations — in another district on Hong Kong Island.
But the police used more tear gas on the protesters at Causeway Bay. The tear gas beat back most of the crowd, but some protesters resisted by throwing the canisters back at officers and hurling eggs and other objects. Some jeered “Gangsters!” at the police line.
Demonstrators debated whether they could feasibly defend the area or if they should migrate to another district, as they had been doing throughout the night. Some passers-by were caught in the fray and angrily yelled at protesters.
Earlier in the day, another police station became the target of protesters’ ire as rallies in two different parts of the city converged into one.
Following a rally in the Tseung Kwan O area, some protesters used what appeared to be a long, homemade slingshot to hurl rocks, bricks and other objects at a police station. They shattered multiple glass windows, authorities said. Demonstrators elsewhere also began to barricade and block roads.
Police said earlier Sunday that they had arrested more than 20 people for offenses including unlawful assembly and assault after protest marches on Saturday devolved into now-routine standoffs between protesters and law enforcement.
As has been the pattern during the mass pro-democracy demonstrations in the Chinese territory, Sunday’s rallies started off peacefully.
At one park on Hong Kong Island, a flutist and a trumpeter played “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from the musical “Les Miserables,” which has become a rallying song for protests.
Protesters believe China’s government and the administration of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam are eroding the civil liberties and political autonomy promised when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.
“We are not just another Chinese city. We are Hong Kong,” said Cara Lee, 53, an insurance agent who was attending her 13th demonstration.
“I feel ashamed because for a long time we didn’t do anything,” said Lee. “But now we are awake. I have to speak out for the next generation. It’s our moral responsibility.”
Police said in a statement Sunday that they will use a colored liquid spray to distinguish protesters from other members of the public. They said that the spray is edible and harmless, but will stay on skin and clothes as a way of marking demonstrators, and that the dye can also be applied to tear gas.
On Saturday, a protest march in the territory’s northern area of Kowloon erupted in clashes with police after some marchers walked off the government-approved route and into separate areas.
Police said some protesters threw gasoline bombs, bricks and glass bottles and refused to disperse.
Some blocked streets while others surrounded two different police stations, damaging vehicles parked inside one lot.
Residents in one neighborhood banded together with protesters and surrounded a police station, yelling at riot police to leave.
Protesters are demanding an independent investigation into complaints of police abuse and the government response to an attack in a train station that injured 44 people. They also want Lam to resign.
Activists have called for a citywide general strike on Monday.
Hong Kong residents increasingly accuse China’s ruling Communist Party of encroaching on their liberties. Those fears have been fueled by the arrests of booksellers and activists in Hong Kong.
During the rally Saturday, some protesters scaled a flag pole, removed the Chinese flag and flung it into the iconic Victoria Harbour.
Former Hong Kong leader C.Y. Leung offered 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($127,720) for information about who threw the flag into the water. The act will provoke “enormous resentment from the entire nation,” said Leung.