Tear gas and water cannon as Hong Kong crowds defy rally ban
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: January 7, 2021 - 2:20pm

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

January 7, 2021 - 2:20pm

Jailed Hong Kong democracy campaigner Joshua Wong was arrested by police on Thursday under the city's new national security law, a senior police source tells AFP.

Wong, currently serving a sentence of 13 and a half months for his role in organising democracy protests, was arrested inside Shek Pik Prison on a new charge of subversion, the officer confirms. —  AFP

January 6, 2021 - 12:54pm

US President-elect Joe Biden's pick for Secretary of State blasts Hong Kong authorities for arresting some 50 opposition figures on Wednesday under a new national security law. 

"The sweeping arrests of pro-democracy demonstrators are an assault on those bravely advocating for universal rights," Antony Blinken says on Twitter. 

"The Biden-Harris administration will stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing's crackdown on democracy," he adds. — AFP

December 30, 2020 - 10:58am

Two teenagers among 12 activists held in China will be sent back to Hong Kong on Wednesday, the city's police said.

The handover comes as verdicts for the other 10 of the "Hong Kong 12" were expected to be handed down by a court in the southern city of Shenzhen on charges linked to an illegal border crossing.

The two teens, aged 16 and 17, were expected to be handed back by Shenzhen authorities to the city's police force at the border around noon (0400 GMT). — AFP

December 21, 2020 - 12:00pm

Hong Kong faces no respite from Beijing's crackdown on dissent after a year that saw its status as a free speech bastion collapse under a security law that has radically transformed the city.

China's authoritarian leaders guaranteed Hong Kong would maintain key freedoms and autonomy after its 1997 handover by Britain in a model dubbed "One Country, Two Systems".

But a historic retreat from that promise is underway in response to the huge and often violent democracy protests that convulsed the business hub a year ago.

Hong Kong is now a place where Beijing increasingly calls the shots and where voicing certain opinions can now carry up to a lifetime prison sentence. — AFP

December 3, 2020 - 1:51pm

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai was remanded into custody on Thursday after being charged with fraud, the latest in a string of prosecutions brought against high-profile Beijing critics and democracy campaigners. 

Lai, 73, is the owner of Hong Kong's best-selling Apple Daily, a popular tabloid that is unashamedly pro-democracy and fiercely critical of authorities.

Lai and two of the firm's executives — Royston Chow and Wong Wai-keung — face fraud charges that court documents say are related to the paper's offices allegedly being used for purposes not permitted by the building's lease.

Police raided Apple Daily's headquarters in August and arrested a string of senior company figures, including Lai, on suspicion of "collusion with foreign forces" under a vaguely worded new national security law that Beijing imposed on the city.

None has so far been charged with any national security breaches. — AFP

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