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Hong Kong Protests Grow Violent 07/22 06:17

7/22/2019 - 06:18:00

Hong Kong Protests Grow Violent        07/22 06:17

   Clashes involving Hong Kong's protest movement escalated violently late 
Sunday as police launched tear gas at protesters who didn't disband after a 
massive march and subway riders were attacked by masked assailants who appeared 
to target the pro-democracy demonstrators.

   HONG KONG (AP) -- Clashes involving Hong Kong's protest movement escalated 
violently late Sunday as police launched tear gas at protesters who didn't 
disband after a massive march and subway riders were attacked by masked 
assailants who appeared to target the pro-democracy demonstrators.

   The firing of tear gas was the latest confrontation between police and 
protesters who have taken to the streets for almost two months to fight a 
proposed extradition bill and call for electoral reforms in the Chinese 
territory.

   The march had been peaceful when it reached its police-designated end point 
in Hong Kong's Wan Chai district in the late afternoon, but thousands continued 
onward, at various points occupying key government and business districts. They 
then headed for the Liaison Office, which represents China's Communist 
Party-led central government within the city.

   Protesters threw eggs at the building and spray-painted its surrounding 
surveillance cameras. China's national emblem, which adorns the front of the 
Liaison Office, was splattered with black ink. The Liaison Office said in 
comments published on Chinese state media that the acts "openly challenged the 
authority of the central government and touched the bottom line of the 'one 
country, two systems' principle."

   Later, police threw tear gas canisters at protesters to try to disperse 
them. Protesters scattered, some heading back in the direction of a key 
business and retail district. Police remained in place, protecting themselves 
with shields. Police said on their official social media accounts that 
protesters threw bricks and petrol bombs at them and attacked the Central 
police station.

   Hong Kong media released video showing masked assailants attacking commuters 
in a subway station. Among those attacked were protesters clad in their 
trademark black clothing and yellow hard hats.

   The attackers, meanwhile, were dressed in white with black masks pulled over 
their heads. On Saturday, demonstrators wore white at a counter-rally in 
support of police.

   Footage from Apple Daily showed the attackers using umbrellas to beat people 
in the station and inside a subway car. Subway passengers filmed by Stand News 
and iCABLE angrily accused police officers of not intervening in the attack. 
Stand News reporter Gwyneth Ho said on Facebook that she suffered minor 
injuries to her hands and shoulder, and was dizzy from a head injury. The South 
China Morning Post reported several people were bleeding following the attacks, 
and that seven people were sent to the hospital.

   The Hong Kong government said in a statement shortly after midnight that 
commuters were attacked at a subway station in the city's Yuen Long 
neighborhood, leading to "confrontations and injuries."

   The statement also said some "radical protesters initiated a series of 
violent acts ... despite repeated warnings" by police. They said the acts 
included hurling petrol bombs, setting fires and throwing bricks.

   "This is absolutely unacceptable to Hong Kong as a society that observes the 
rule of law," the statement said, referring to the acts of the subway attackers 
as well as the protesters.

   Organizers said 430,000 people participated in Sunday's march, while police 
said there were 138,000 during the procession's "peak period."

   Large protests began early last month in opposition to a contentious 
extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to stand trial in 
mainland China, where critics say their rights would be compromised.

   Hong Kong's leader, Carrie Lam, has declared the extradition bill dead, but 
protesters are dissatisfied with her refusal to formally withdraw the 
legislation. Some are also calling for her to resign amid growing concerns 
about the steady erosion of civil rights in the city.

   Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed back to China in 1997 and was 
promised certain democratic freedoms under the framework of "one country, two 
systems." Fueled by anger at Lam and an enduring distrust of the Communist 
Party-ruled central government in Beijing, the current demonstrations have 
ballooned into calls for electoral reform and an investigation into alleged 
police brutality at the protests.

   Walking in sweltering heat, protesters dressed in black kicked off Sunday's 
march at a public park, carrying a large banner that read "Independent Inquiry 
for Rule of Law."

   "Free Hong Kong! Democracy now!" the protesters chanted, forming a dense 
procession through Wan Chai as they were joined by others who had been waiting 
in side streets.

   "The government has never responded to our demands," said Karen Yu, a 
52-year-old Hong Kong resident who has attended four protests since they 
started. "No matter how much the government can do, at least it should come out 
and respond to us directly."

   Protesters repeated the five points of their "manifesto," which was first 
introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this 
month. Their main demands include universal suffrage --- direct voting rights 
for all Hong Kong residents --- as well as dropping charges against 
anti-extradition protesters, withdrawing the characterization of a clash 
between police and protesters as a "riot" and dissolving the Legislative 
Council.

   Protesters read the demands aloud in both English and Cantonese in videos 
released Saturday.

   "We did not want to embark on this path of resisting tyranny with our bare 
bodies," they said, "but for too long, our government has lied and deceived, 
and refused to respond to the demands of the people."

   While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, some confrontations 
between police and protesters have turned violent. In Sha Tin district the 
previous Sunday, they beat each other with umbrellas and bats inside a luxury 
shopping center. Demonstrators broke into the Legislative Council building on 
July 1 by moving past barricades and shattering windows.

   On Friday, Hong Kong police discovered a stash of a powerful homemade 
explosive in a commercial building and arrested a man. Materials voicing 
opposition to the extradition bill were found at the site, local media said, 
but a police spokesman said no concrete link had been established and the 
investigation was continuing.

   The People's Daily, the Communist Party's official newspaper, condemned 
"radical extremists" who attacked the legislature and "trampled" on Hong Kong's 
rule of law in a front-page column Sunday. The paper said the counter-rally 
Saturday intended to show support for the police reflected "mainstream public 
opinion" in Hong Kong.


(KR)

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