Police fired tear gas and protesters threw stones and gasoline bombs
Violence returned to the streets of Hong Kong on Saturday, as the police fired tear gas and protesters threw stones and gasoline bombs, signaling the end of a period of relative calm in the city.
The clashes in the district of Kwan Tong, in eastern Kowloon, were a marked departure from the peaceful, if sometimes tense, gatherings that had taken place over much of the last two weeks.
Just a day earlier, anti-government demonstrators had held hands across Hong Kong, forming human chains to demand greater democracy in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Before officers wielding batons charged at a crowd Saturday afternoon in Kwun Tong, protesters had used bamboo rods and other objects to put up barricades outside a police station. Some protesters had pulled down and dismantled lampposts that they said contained high-tech surveillance equipment.
“We don’t want to be monitored; we want human rights,” said Calvin Wong, a 24-year-old demonstrator. “Maybe people in the mainland accept this, but people in Hong Kong will not.”
In a statement, the police said that protesters had started fires and hurled bricks at officers, and that the use of force had been required to scatter the crowd. Officers also fired tear gas in the Wong Tai Sin area Saturday evening; the police said the action was a response to protesters obstructing roads and aiming laser pointers at officers.
The demonstrations in Hong Kong began in June over an unpopular bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. The proposal has since been shelved, but protesters are calling for it to be fully withdrawn. The movement’s demands have expanded to include other issues, such as amnesty for arrested protesters and an investigation into police violence.
Last weekend was the first in many weeks in which the demonstrations did not involve tear gas or clashes between protesters and the police. Organizers estimated that at least 1.7 million people marched peacefully through the city center under heavy rain last Sunday. The enormous turnout prompted Hong Kong’s top leader, Carrie Lam, to say that she intended to start listening more to the community.
On Saturday, as demonstrators assembled in Kwun Tong, Mrs. Lam wrote on Facebook that the calm had made it an opportune moment for dialogue.
“I don’t expect that dialogue will be able to easily untangle this knot, stop the demonstrations or provide a solution to the problem,” she wrote. “But continuing to fight is not a way out.”
Less than two hours after Mrs. Lam’s post appeared, the police were firing tear gas in Kwun Tong.
In the afternoon, a group of protesters squared off with officers on the wide main road outside the police station. A smaller group of demonstrators retreated into an open-air shopping center after helmeted officers approached from several sides.
This articular originally published by new York times.