Hong Kong: Violence spreads, police attacked

More Hong Kongers are leaving the special administrative region as political turmoil continues. (Reuters pic)

HONG KONG: Violence spread across different areas of Hong Kong on Saturday and continued late into the night as protesters and police traded petrol bombs and tear gas, and officers came under direct attack.

The clashes came after prominent local activists, including protest leader Joshua Wong, testified at a hearing in Washington last week in support of human rights legislation.

There’s momentum growing for Congress to take fast action to pressure Beijing to back off any crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrators by threatening its special trading status with the US.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 has bipartisan support and would require yearly assessments of whether the Asian financial hub remains sufficiently autonomous from China to justify its unique treatment under American law.

Movement on it comes as the pro-democracy movement, which began over opposition to since-scrapped extradition legislation, enters its fourth month.

Here’s the latest:

Police obtain protesters’ data: report (9:10am)

Police obtained data of protesters’ bus commutes from Octopus stored-value smart cards and CCTV camera footage from Kowloon Motor Bus Company, the South China Morning Post cited an unidentified senior police officer as saying.

Curtailed traffic to airport (9am Sunday)

Airport Authority Hong Kong suspended some transport to the airport in anticipation of protests targeting the facility.

All “E” route buses traveling from the city to the airport and the nearby AsiaWorld-Expo will end the trip at Tung Chung from 10:30am, it said in an e-mailed statement Sunday morning.

Airport Express trains bound for the airport will only pick up passengers at the Hong Kong Station from 9 am until the end of the day’s service.

Violence spreads (Sunday 2.15am)

Protesters in Tuen Mun repeatedly threw petrol bombs at officers, police said in a statement. Some activists attacked a policeman with “hard objects” and tried to snatch his gun, according to the statement.

In the border town of Yuen Long, petrol bombs were hurled at police vehicles and demonstrators attacked rail carriages, police said.

Officers had to break up clashes between opposing groups in different parts of the district, according to the statement.

Protesters blocked roads in the busy shopping district of Mong Kok, where officers fired tear gas and 40mm react rounds to disperse mobs, police said.

Mall sit-in (8pm)

Protesters gathered in a shopping mall in Yuen Long after a rally in Tuen Mun turned violent.

With stores shut, the demonstrators took over the centre, singing and chanting. Hundreds staged a sit-in while others milled around waving banners.

Police fire tear gas (5pm)

Police fired tear gas after protesters hurled petrol bombs and set fire to barriers built across roads near shopping malls in Tuen Mun.

Thousands of demonstrators roamed through Tuen Mun streets after a peaceful rally in a park.

Light rail service in the area was suspended on three routes, MTR Corp, operator of the city’s train network, said on its website.

Police said that the protesters damaged train station facilities and obstructed traffic.

Tear gas warning (3:50pm)

Police raised a black flag outside the train station in Tuen Mun as thousands more protesters poured into the area.

The black-flag warning is a signal that officers might fire tear gas.

Football rally (2pm)

The stands of the Tuen Mun sports ground were packed with anti-China demonstrators who watched masked players compete in a game of football in one of the more convivial events since protests began.

By mid-afternoon, the turnout at the rally had failed to match a previous one at the venue when crowds packed the stands and filled the pitch.

Clean-up clashes (10:10am)

Small groups of people scraped walls of notices plastered on boards in public areas citywide by anti-China protesters.

In the border town of Yuen Long, the scene of previous clashes, a small number of people gathered outside the train station, carrying cleaning implements and wearing T-shirts with pro-Beijing slogans.

As they tried to clean the walls adorned in bright stickers with anti-government messages, they were confronted by another group clad in black. Police separated them and led some away.

Rail service suspension (Saturday 10am)

MTR said service at the Tuen Mun and Yuen Long stations would be suspended.

The Tuen Mun station would close at 1pm and Yuen Long would shut at 3pm, it said on its website, citing public activities. Rallies are planned in both areas Saturday.

Police: 1,474 people arrested since June (4:16pm)

Hong Kong police gave updated figures for arrests made since June, saying 1,474 protesters had been detained.

Calls for their release is one of demonstrators’ major demands as the movement grinds into October.

US legislation hot air, Ip says (12:58pm)

Pro-establishment lawmaker Regina Ip pushed back at the US during a conference organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, calling the legislation “hot air” and threatening action by Beijing if American lawmakers don’t back down.

Ip, who made clear she was not speaking on behalf of the city’s leader Carrie Lam, also urged American audience members to call their congress people and ask them to not impose sanctions on Hong Kong.

Amnesty alleges police torture (12:23pm)

Hong Kong police beat up protesters who were in custody and committed acts that amount to “torture” during demonstrations, human rights group Amnesty International alleged.

Officers used “unnecessary and excessive force” in making arrests, beat a demonstrator for declining to answer a question and then held him to the floor, shined laser pens in the eyes of people who had been detained, and threatened to electrocute a man’s genitals after he refused to unlock his phone.

The new report could fuel anger among protesters who have pushed back at what they see as aggressive police tactics.

Weekend events

Saturday will see a sit-in protest against a July attack in the Yuen Long area of the New Territories, in which protesters say police failed to protect them against unidentified white-shirted men who beat them in a subway station.

A protest to “reclaim” Tuen Mun Park will also take place in the San Wo Long area.

And lawmaker Junius Ho has called for a city-wide cleanup of the colourful so-called Lennon Walls that have sprung up around Hong Kong in support of the movement.

On Sunday, protesters will attempt another disruption of the international airport’s transportation network. Previous attempts haven’t gained much traction.