Tear gas fired at protesters in Hong Kong
Demonstrators moved through Yuen Long, the area where a mob attacked people in a rail station last week.
Police in Hong Kong have fired tear gas at protesters who defied warnings not to march in an area where six days earlier a mob apparently targeting demonstrators attacked people in a train station.
Officers in riot gear shot the tear gas on Saturday into a crowd of demonstrators in Yuen Long who were standing their ground despite appeals from police to end the unsanctioned procession.
For the protesters, it was a show of defiance against the white-clad assailants who beat dozens of people last Sunday, including some demonstrators heading home after the latest mass protest in the summer-long pro-democracy movement.
Police said some of the attackers at the train station were connected to triad gangs and others were villagers who live in the area.
The streets of Yuen Long became a sea of umbrellas as the march began on Saturday afternoon.
A symbol going back to the Occupy Central protests that shook Hong Kong in 2014, umbrellas have become tools to help protesters conceal their identities from police cameras as well as shields against tear gas and pepper spray.
“Hong Kong police know the law and break the law,” protesters chanted as they made their way through the streets.
The city’s public transport network announced its trains would not be making their usual stops in Yuen Long.
Several area businesses and public facilities were closed in anticipation of the march while service at a nursing centre was temporarily suspended, and sports venues shut down early.
A few hours before the march started, a man was arrested in Yuen Long for injuring someone with a knife, police said.
Massive demonstrations began in Hong Kong early last month against an extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to face trial in mainland China, where critics say their rights would be compromised.
The bill was eventually suspended, but protesters’ demands have grown to include direct elections, the dissolution of the current legislature and an investigation into alleged police brutality in the Chinese territory.
A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under the framework of “one country, two systems”.
The arrangement promises the city certain democratic freedoms that are not afforded mainland citizens, but some residents say these liberties have been steadily eroded in recent years after the arrests of booksellers and democracy activists.
After last Sunday’s march, a group of protesters vandalised Hong Kong’s Liaison Office, which represents the mainland government.
They spray-painted the building’s surveillance cameras and threw eggs and black ink at the Chinese national emblem, an act that Beijing has vehemently condemned.
In response to the police’s objection to Saturday’s march in Yuen Long, protesters have cheekily labelled the procession a “shopping trip,” as well as a memorial service for former Chinese premier Li Peng, who died on Monday.
Li was a hard-liner best known for announcing martial law during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests that ended in bloodshed.