Protesters react to tear gas fired by police during a pro-democracy march along Nathan Road in the Kowloon district in Hong Kong on October 20, 2019. Large crowds of Hong Kongers defied a police ban and began an illegal march on October 20, their numbers swollen by anger over the recent stabbing and beating of two pro-democracy protesters.
AFP/Ed Jones
Tear gas and water cannon as Hong Kong crowds defy rally ban
Yan Zhao, Xinqi Su (Agence France-Presse) - October 21, 2019 - 8:41am

HONG KONG — As the protesters fled, frontliners stayed behind to slow the advance of riot police, setting fire to makeshift barricades. Clashes went on deep into the night.

A Xiaomi and a Best Mart store -- both mainland Chinese businesses -- were set alight.

Activists attacked

Tensions were running high after the leader of the group organising the weekend rally, Jimmy Sham, was hospitalised after being attacked by unknown assailants wielding hammers earlier in the week.

Then late Saturday, a man handing out pro-democracy flyers was stabbed in the neck and stomach, reportedly by an assailant who shouted pro-Beijing slogans. 

Many on Sunday's march said they wanted to show they were unbowed by the attacks and moves by authorities to ban public gatherings. 

"The more they suppress, the more we resist," a 69-year-old demonstrator, who gave her surname as Yeung, told AFP. "Can police arrest us all, tens of thousands of people?"

Philip Tsoi, a self-described frontline protester, said they needed to keep getting numbers out even though many hardcore activists like him had been "arrested or wounded" in recent weeks.

"What I want is a truly democratic government whose leader is elected by Hong Kong people instead of selected by a Communist regime," he told AFP.

Vigilante violence has mounted on both sides of the ideological divide.

In recent weeks pro-democracy supporters have badly beaten people who vocally disagree with them -- although those fights tend to be spontaneous outbursts of mob anger during protests.

In contrast, pro-democracy figures have been attacked in a noticeably more targeted way, with at least eight prominent government critics, including politicians, beaten by unknown assailants since mid-August.

Protesters have labelled the attacks "white terror" and accused the city's shadowy organised crime groups of forming an alliance with Beijing supporters.

Beijing has denounced the protests as a foreign-backed plot and condemned attacks on those voicing support for China.

But it has remained largely silent on the attacks carried out against pro-democracy figures.

Months of unrest

Hong Kong has now been battered by 20 weeks of protests and with no political solution in sight, clashes have intensified each month.

Hardliners have embraced widespread vandalism, while riot police are quick to respond with tear gas, rubber bullets and, more recently, live rounds.

The rallies were triggered by a now-abandoned plan to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland, but have morphed into wider calls for democracy and police accountability.

Protesters are demanding an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for those arrested and fully free elections, all of which have been rejected by Beijing and Hong Kong's unelected leader Carrie Lam.

Earlier this month, Lam invoked a colonial-era emergency law to ban face masks.

The decision set off a new wave of protests and vandalism that shut down much of the city's transport network.

In the last fortnight, the clashes have become less intense, with the city's subway closing each night at 10:00 pm.

But protests have continued, with many defying the mask ban during "flashmob" rallies.

Separately, Chinese state television CCTV claimed that "sooner or later," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will be punished for refusing to apologise for an earlier tweet by Daryl Morey of the Houston Rockets supporting the Hong Kong demonstrators.

CCTV accused Silver of "inventing lies to dirty China," and said that by defending Morey he had "crossed the bottom line by showing a lack of respect to Chinese."

The backlash against Morey's comments has cast a cloud over the NBA's lucrative broadcasting, merchandising and sponsorship interests in China, where it has legions of fans.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 20, 2019 - 2:46pm

Millions march in Hong Kong in a powerful rebuke of an extradition law feared to expose them to China's capricious justice system.

November 20, 2019 - 2:46pm

China's foreign ministry summons a top US diplomat over the Senate's passing of a Hong Kong rights bill, warning of "strong" countermeasures against the United States should the legislation be signed into law.

Vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu called in acting charge d'affaires William Klein to lodge a "strong protest", the ministry says in a statement.

"We strongly urge the US side to immediately take effective measures to prevent this bill from becoming law" and stop meddling in China's internal affairs, the statement says.

"Otherwise, the Chinese side will take strong measures to resolutely counter it, and the US side must bear all the consequences," it says. — AFP

November 19, 2019 - 8:15pm

Arms covered in cling film and torches in hand as they drop into the sewers, clusters of pro-democracy protesters still inside a Hong Kong campus are plotting increasingly ingenious -- and desperate -- ways to escape a police siege.

Among the detritus of a scorched and graffiti-sprayed concourse at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, several plastic covers -- some with torches placed above them -- betray extraordinary underground escape plans.

Protesters have removed metal manholes, some making exploratory forays into the fetid tunnels, following rumours of successful exfiltrations from a campus ringed for three days by baton-wielding police determined to arrest them.

Pockets of protesters, some with thick bandages wrapped around their knees in anticipation of a long crawl to freedom, knot the holes discussing an unlikely -- and highly dangerous -- breakout.  -- Agence France-Presse

November 19, 2019 - 4:31pm

China insisted Tuesday it alone held the authority to rule on constitutional matters in Hong Kong, as it condemned a decision by the city's high court to overturn a ban on face masks worn by pro-democracy protesters.

The statement raised hackles among activists in Hong Kong after months of violent protests over concerns that Beijing is chipping away at the autonomy of the financial hub.

The ban on face-covering came into force in October, when the city's unelected pro-Beijing leader invoked colonial-era legislation for the first time in more than 50 years.

The move was seen as a watershed legal moment for the city since its 1997 return by Britain to China -- but has been largely symbolic. -- Agence France-Presse

November 17, 2019 - 2:52pm

A police officer was struck in the leg by an arrow shot by a Hong Kong protester on Sunday, the city's force says.

Graphic images showed the arrow embedded in the calf of the police officer, who was working at the scene of fierce clashes at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on the force's media liaison team. — Agence France-Presse

November 16, 2019 - 5:07pm

Government supporters took to the streets of downtown Hong Kong on Saturday after a chaotic working week saw hardcore pro-democracy activists cause widespread disruption in the city and stretch police resources.

A "Blossom Everywhere" campaign of roadblocks and vandalism across the semi-autonomous financial hub shut down large chunks of the train network and forced schools and shopping malls to close.

Students and protesters occupied several major universities around the city -- the first time a movement characterised by its fluidity and unpredictability has coagulated in fixed locations -- although as dusk fell on Friday, numbers had thinned out.

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