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Hong Kong protesters target police use of force in march

The march followed a short rally at Chater Garden, a park in the financial district.

A sea of black-shirted protesters carry placards during a protest march in Hong Kong (Vincent Yu/AP)
A sea of black-shirted protesters carry placards during a protest march in Hong Kong (Vincent Yu/AP)

A sea of black-shirted protesters marched down a major street in central Hong Kong on Sunday in the latest rally in what has become a summer of protest.

Some wore bright yellow helmets and masks but many just carried backpacks.

The march followed a short rally at Chater Garden, a park in the financial district, against the police use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other force to break up a protest last Sunday.

A sea of protesters take part in a march in central Hong Kong (Vincent Yu/AP)

Police had denied organisers permission to march to the Sheung Wan district, where the tear gas was used. In a surprise move, the protesters headed in the opposite direction.

Chanting “Add oil”, a phrase that roughly means “Keep up the fight”, they walked past government and police headquarters, but their destination was unclear.

Hong Kong has been wracked by protests for seven weeks, as opposition to an extradition Bill has morphed into demands for the resignation of the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, and an investigation into whether police have used excessive force in quelling the protests.

Protesters cheer a colleague wearing a full protection gear (Vincent Yu/AP)

Underlying the movement is a broader push for full democracy in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. The city’s leader is chosen by a committee dominated by a pro-Beijing establishment, rather than by direct elections.

Police had denied a request from protest organisers to march about 1.4 miles (2km) west to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park, citing escalating violence in clashes with protesters that have broken out after past marches and rallies.

“The police must prevent aggressive protesters from exploiting a peaceful procession to cause troubles and violent clashes,” said Superintendent Louis Lau, of the police public relations branch.

Protesters distribute umbrellas to fellow demonstrators (Vincent Yu/AP)

On Saturday, clashes between protesters and police led to 11 arrests and left at least two dozen injured in an outlying district toward the border with mainland China.

The police had also denied permission for that march in Yuen Long, where a mob apparently targeting demonstrators had beaten people brutally in a railway station the previous weekend.

Protesters and police faced off in the streets well into the night, as they have done repeatedly during the summer’s pro-democracy protests.

Special Tactical Squad officers attack protesters with batons at a railway station in Yuen Long district in Hong Kong on Saturday (Eric Tsang /HK01/AP)

Police said protesters removed fences from roads to make their own roadblocks and charged police lines with metal poles.

One group surrounded and vandalised a police vehicle, putting the officers on board in danger, a police statement said.

Officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets as demonstrators threw bricks and other objects and ducked behind makeshift shields.

A protester flees from baton-wielding police in Yuen Long district in Hong Kong on Saturday (Eric Tsang /HK01/AP)

Later, police wearing helmets charged into the railway station, where a few hundred protesters had taken refuge from the tear gas.

Some officers swung their batons at demonstrators, while others appeared to be urging their colleagues to hang back.

For the second week in a row, blood was spattered on the station floor.

Police said in a statement that they arrested 11 men, aged between 18 and 68, for offences including unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapon and assault. At least four officers were injured.

The Hospital Authority said 24 people were taken to five hospitals. As of Sunday morning, eight remained in hospital, two in a serious condition.

Protesters react to tear gas during a face off with riot police at Yuen Long district in Hong Kong (Bobby Yip/AP)

Human rights group Amnesty International called the police response heavy-handed and unacceptable.

“While police must be able to defend themselves, there were repeated instances today where police officers were the aggressors,” Man-kei Tam, the director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said in a statement.

Police said they had to use what they termed “appropriate force” because of the bricks and other objects thrown at them, including glass bottles with a suspected corrosive fluid inside.



From Belfast Telegraph