27 January 2020
Police officers stand next to a burning barricade during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
Police officers stand next to a burning barricade during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Protesters battle with police in HK after ‘illegal’ mass rally

Police and pro-democracy protesters battled on the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday after tens of thousands of people staged a rally despite being refused permission by authorities.

The weekend rally drew broad-based support from regular citizens including young families and the elderly.

But a more radical faction of largely young protesters later clashed with riot police, Reuters reports.

Banks and other businesses linked to China were attacked and bonfires lit on Nathan Road, a main road running through the heart of the Kowloon peninsula.

Police fired volleys of tear gas and baton charged demonstrators, and also hosed them down from water cannon.

The Civil Human Rights Front, which had failed to obtain police approval to hold the march, said about 350,000 people took part.

The police gave no estimate, saying they deemed the march to be illegal.

Massive crowds occupied thoroughfares in several districts in Kowloon and moved northwards, smashing a number of businesses linked to China including banks, a bookshop and other stores.

Protesters threw petrol bombs at the Tsim Sha Tsui police station after police inside fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators. One activist urinated onto the police gate.

Bonfires were also set as riot police with shields and batons charged at the crowds, fired multiple volleys of tear gas.

Police used water cannon trucks to disperse protesters, spraying jets of blue dye into the crowds and sending hundreds fleeing. Police have used the dye to identify protesters.

In one incident, a water cannon fired a jet toward the front gate of the Kowloon Mosque where a group of people stood. The mosque is Hong Kong’s most important Islamic place of worship.

Some worshipers interviewed by media outside the mosque afterwards called it a provocation against Islam and demanded the police apologize.

Several police officers were filmed entering the building later, though the police gave no immediate response to the incident.

As riot police advanced protesters retreated readily, with some saying they wanted to avoid large numbers of arrests unlike past rallies when they stood their ground.

Along the march, protesters torched and trashed metro stations and hundreds of shops according to the police, throwing goods onto the streets.

Chinese banks including ICBC and the Bank of China were torched and had glass windows smashed up. Smartphone maker Xiaomi also had one shop vandalized.

One trashed shop on Sunday had protest slogans left on its shutters saying it was attacked because it was owned by mainland Chinese mobs who had attacked innocent people.

“We never rob. We don’t forgive. We don’t forget”, said one notice.

Police said they had seized more than 40 petrol bombs. An explosive device was also detonated by police that had been rigged among broken bricks in the middle of a street.

At the start of the march, banners reading “Free Hong Kong” stretched across the ground. Other posters read “HongKongers Resist”, while graffiti on one wall said “Better Dead than Red”.

Lam’s annual policy speech last Wednesday did not address any of the protesters’ demands, which include universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality against protesters.

Two people have been shot and wounded by police and thousands injured since the protests escalated in June. More than 2,300 people have been arrested.

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