'Hung To' march passes without clashes despite tense moments

August 19, 2019 17:19
Police fire a bean-bag round in Mong Kok on Saturday night after some protesters throw a trash bin from a footbridge during an anti-government demonstration. Photo: HK China News Agency

A protest march in Hung Hom and To Kwa Wan on Saturday passed without any major incident, prompting sighs of relief from authorities and local residents as well as the event organizer.

The demonstration, ahead of Sunday's massive gathering at Victoria Park, was largely peaceful although some of the participants left the procession afterwards and went to Mong Kok Police Station to vent their anger.

The route of the march, which began at 3:40 pm, was originally envisaged to be from Hung Hom Ferry Pier to Sung Wong Toi Playground but the plan was rejected by the police. After considering an appeal, the police decided on Friday night to allow protesters to walk from Hoi Sham Park to an open space across Exit A of Whampoa MTR Station.

According to Timothy Lee Hin-long, who sought permission for the march, more than 10,000 people joined the rally, which saw the crowd spilling over onto the road from the pavement. The police, which had instructed that protesters stick to the pavement, estimated the crowd at 3,500 at the peak.

The marchers urged the government to respond to the five demands made by the public in the wake of the extradition bill debacle, and also chanted slogans to denounce the alleged problems being created by an influx of mainland tour groups.

Referring to Hung Hom and To Kwa Wan by a single name “Hung To", the demonstrators shouted slogans such as “Reclaim Hung To” and “Hung To are not tourism zones”.

During the march, the protesters noticed some plain-clothed police officers, prompting tempers to rise and accusations to fly about the the police's conduct during previous demonstrations.

Making a reference to alleged collusion between the police and criminal gangs in Yuen Long last month when anti-government protesters and others were beaten up at a rail station, the demonstrators shouted “Triad”.

Also, there was a chant of “Police, give back the eye”, in reference to an Aug. 11 incident in Tsim Sha Tsui when a female protester who was seriously injured after being hit in the eye allegedly by a projectile fired by the police.

When passing the offices of Starry Lee Wai-king and Ann Chiang Lai-wan, two pro-establishment lawmakers from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress, eggs were thrown at the doors of the office premises.

After the procession reached its destination, it returned to To Kwa Wan. Some of the protesting crowd then “flash mobbed” to Mong Kok and Prince Edward areas, with several hundreds surrounding the Mong Kok Police Station after nightfall.

A crowd of protesters stood across from a group of police officers guarding the police station, creating a standoff situation. The protesters beamed laser pointers at the station despite police warnings.

During the standoff, some protesters on a footbridge ignored a warning to stop throwing objects at the police officers and their vehicles.

One bean-bag round was fired at the footbridge after a trash bin was thrown down at the police vehicles from there.

As no clashes took place, officers did not take any dispersal action and the protesters eventually left on their own.

Earlier that day, tens of thousands of people joined a rally organized by teachers to gather at Chater Garden in Central to “guard the next generation and speak their conscience”.

After the rally, which the organizers claimed to have drawn more than 22,000 people, the participants marched in the rain along Garden Road to the Government House, the official residence of Hong Kong's top leader.

Speaking to the crowd, education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said he cannot understand why it is so hard for the government to announce the withdrawal of the extradition bill as demanded by many Hongkongers.

He also slammed police for abuse of force, and added that teachers should come forward to show their care for the next generation.

Meanwhile, there was also a pro-Beijing rally on the same day, an event that saw participants wave Chinese flags and denounce the Hong Kong anti-government protesters.

The event was organized by Safeguard Hong Kong Alliance, whose members include several Hong Kong delegates to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top political advisory body, and local deputies of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s legislature, at Tamar Park on Saturday afternoon.

Several representatives from the property and other business sectors also attended the event but did not speak on stage.

Bearing the theme of opposing violence and saving Hong Kong, the 45-minute-long gathering attracted 476,000 people, according to the organizers. The police, however, estimated the turnout at 108,000 at the peak.

Stanley Ng Chau-pei, an NPC deputy who is deputy convenor of the alliance, said the fact that the turnout exceeded that seen in a similar rally last month is an indication that many people feel that Hong Kong has fallen into a severe situation.

Citizens want to see order restored and end to all forms of violence, he said.

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A pro-Beijing counter-rally attracted 476,000 people, as per the organizer’s claim, at Tamar Park on Saturday. Photo: Xinhua