Tear gas, Molotovs and brawls mark 99th day of Hong Kong protests

Published September 16, 2019, 6:19 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Agence France-Presse

Hong Kong riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at hardcore pro-democracy protesters hurling rocks and petrol bombs on Sunday, tipping the violence-plagued city back into chaos after a brief lull in clashes.

Hong Kong protesters run past a fire at the entrance to a subway station, during clashes with riot police after a rally descended into violence by small groups of hardcore demonstrators (AFP / Anthony WALLACE / MANILA BULLETIN)
Hong Kong protesters run past a fire at the entrance to a subway station, during clashes with riot police after a rally descended into violence by small groups of hardcore demonstrators (AFP / Anthony WALLACE / MANILA BULLETIN)

Tens of thousands of people defied authorities to march through the city in an unsanctioned rally on Sunday, the latest expression of a popular revolt that has raged for the last 99 days.

The rally descended into violence when small groups of hardcore activists — known within the movement as “braves” — attacked the city’s main government complex.

Police fired repeated volleys of tear gas and deployed water cannon trucks after Molotov cocktails and rocks were thrown over security barriers surrounding the complex, which has become a frequent flashpoint in the ongoing protests.

Local television networks broadcast footage of protesters tearing down and burning a huge banner celebrating the upcoming 70th anniversary of the founding of communist China — as well as torching a Chinese flag.

As evening set in, protesters retreated, chased by riot officers and water cannon firing blue-dyed water.

Hong Kong’s summer of rage was sparked by a now-abandoned plan to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland, a move that prompted millions to hit the streets.

As Beijing and local city leaders doubled down, the protests rapidly snowballed into a much wider anti-government movement.

On Sunday, some demonstrators built barricades, set fires and vandalized subway stations, but the crowds avoided further direct clashes and largely ran away when ranks of police officers got close.

Street brawls 

Throughout the evening, multiple brawls broke out between political opponents, including in the districts of Fortress Hill and North Point, the latter a bastion of pro-Beijing sentiment.

Witnesses said a group of Beijing supporters armed with poles and improvised weapons attacked people in Fortress Hill, but were then set upon by a larger crowd of anti-government protesters.

Two men were treated by paramedics for bloody wounds and rushed away in ambulances.

“They attacked us today and yesterday, so we chased and attacked them,” a democracy protester, who gave his name as John, told AFP.

Pro-democracy supporters also attacked at least two men in Causeway Bay and further fights took place in North Point, AFP reporters on scene saw.

The clashes ended a relative lull in recent days in the intensity of skirmishes between police and protesters.

The once-stable international hub has been convulsed by weeks of huge, sometimes violent rallies calling for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.

The movement is the biggest challenge to China’s rule since the city was handed back by Britain in 1997 and shows no sign of ending.

Under a deal signed with Britain ahead of the handover, Hong Kong is allowed to keep its unique freedoms for 50 years.

But democracy activists accuse Beijing of reneging on those promises by tightening political control over the semi-autonomous territory and refusing calls for universal suffrage.

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