By Jessie Pang and Mari Saito | Reuters
HONG KONG, China, 19 January 2020
Police fired tear gas on Sunday to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters who gathered in a central Hong Kong park but later spilled onto the streets, briefly barricading roads and spray-painting buildings.
Out in numbers before the demonstration began, police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march. Several units of police in riot gear were seen chasing protesters and several arrests were made.
A water cannon truck drove on central streets, flanked by an armoured jeep, but was not used.
Organisers initially applied for a permit for a march, but police only agreed to a static rally in the park, saying previous marches have turned violent.
Once protesters spilled onto the streets, some of them, wearing all-black clothing, barricaded the roads with umbrellas and street furniture, dug up bricks from the pavement and smashed traffic lights.
Police said in a statement two police community liaison officers were attacked with wooden sticks and sustained head injuries. They also said some protesters threw water bottles at some other officers who were conducting a ‘stop and search’ operation.
“In view of the violent incidents, police officers have asked the organiser to halt the public meeting … and urge participants to … leave the area by public transport,” the statement said.
The “Universal Siege Against Communism” demonstration was the latest in a relentless series of protests against the government since June, when Hong Kongers took to the streets to voice their anger over a now-withdrawn extradition bill.
The protests, which have since broadened to include demands for universal suffrage and an independent investigation into police handling of the demonstrations, had lost some of their intensity in recent weeks.
In an apparent new tactic, police have been showing up ahead of time in riot gear, with officers conducting “stop and search” operations near expected demonstrations.
“Everyone understands that there’s a risk of stop-and-search or mass arrests. I appreciate Hong Kong people still come out courageously, despite the risk,” said organiser Ventus Lau.
On 1 January, a march of tens of thousands of people ended with police firing tear gas to disperse crowds.
The gathering in the park was initially relaxed, with many families with children listening to speeches by activists.
In one corner, a group of volunteers set up a stand where people could leave messages on red cards for the lunar new year to be sent to those who have been arrested. One read: “Hong Kongers won’t give up. The future belongs to the youth”.
Authorities in Hong Kong have arrested more than 7,000 people, many on charges of rioting that can carry jail terms of up to 10 years. It is unclear how many are still in custody.
Anger has grown over the months due to perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip over the city, which was handed over to China by Britain in 1997 in an deal that ensured it enjoyed liberties unavailable in the mainland.
Beijing denies meddling and blames the West for fomenting unrest.
There are reports that few bikes that belonged to Tibetans has been burnt in McLeod Ganj, but can’t find them on any news portal. Tibetan reporters should clear whether it’s just a rumour or actually happened.
Listen to Voice of Tibet or ནོར་ཝེ་རླུང་འཕྲིན་ཁང་ Monday 20th segment of News. There is a report on the McLeod Ganj bike incident.
Beijing is in a tight spot when it comes to Hong Kong. It wants the “one country two systems” to succeed in Hong Kong in order to cox Taiwan. At the same time, it also wants its writ run large in HK. These two are incompatible and that is why, the situation is a festering wound that seems incurable. The HKongers are determined to protect their freedom which they enjoyed under Britain. The CCP is equally determined to snuff it out. The recent appointment of Luo Huining as Beijing’s envoy doesn’t bode well. He has no experience in HK and he is a hard liner. He is making a case of bringing the sedition law which will prohibit acts of treason, secession and subversion, when he says, lack of “national security laws allows infiltration and sabotage” in the People’s Daily. Maximum penalty for such acts is 25 years in jail. There are 7000 young people of HK incarcerated during eight months of protest. The CCP is going to alter the existing laws in HK and replace them with draconian CCP laws to quell the protest. Its unable to send the PLA yet it wants to prove, the system works to lure Taiwan. This tactic will only inflame even more resentment among the HK people and Taiwanese will not be fooled by such devious tactics. The situation seems a very tragic tale of the oppressor unable to deliver the killer blow while the victim is unable wrest free from the clutches of the tormentor. The CCP can’t send the tanks to crush them because of international public opinion and the Hong Kong people can’t cry out for independence for fear of “crossing the red line”. Neither party is happy with the existing situation but there is no solution that would please both party. In order to maintain the movement, the protestors must remain peaceful. Violence will only give more ammunition to CCP.