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Fires blaze on the streets of Hong Kong on Saturday. Photo: Sam Tsang

Hong Kong burns in night of violent protest with live rounds shot, multiple fires lit on streets, and MTR paralysed

  • Elite ‘raptors’ from Special Tactical Squad fight pitched battles in smoke-filled streets with hard-core protesters
  • Water cannons fire jets of blue dye at protesters while bricks and petrol bombs hurled at police, before late-night clashes on trains

Anti-government protesters are planning on Sunday afternoon to disrupt all travel routes to Hong Kong airport, after a day of chaos and violence as rampaging demonstrators lit fires and hurled petrol bombs at riot police well into the night.

Protesters are calling on the public to overwhelm road and rail links to the airport on Sunday and Monday to cause flights to be cancelled, in a hoped-for repeat of their actions a fortnight ago.

LIVE: Airport trains suspended as protest near aviation hub kicks off

On Saturday, police fought back, well into the early hours of Sunday, at first firing rounds of blue dye from water cannons, and then sticking to their tested means of dispersal, multiple shots of tear gas, as the city marked yet another weekend of heightened violence.

Police also fired two live rounds into the air to fight off a violent mob near Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, sources told the Post, as word spread of undercover officers mingling with the demonstrators.

The incident was just one of many shocking turns of the day on the 13th straight weekend of protests in the city.

Across various locations, elite “raptors” from the Special Tactical Squad fought pitched battles in smoke-filled streets with hard-core protesters, or chased after them, wrestling some to the ground as they made on-the-spot arrests.

Hard-core elements took their criminal acts to new extremes by lighting bonfires of cardboard and other flammable material, rubbish bins and any junk they could lay their hands on as they moved from one district to another leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, almost always a step ahead of police.

Defying a ban on demonstrations, they took over roads and mounted makeshift barricades from behind which they hurled bricks and petrol bombs at police lines.

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They first began by besieging police headquarters in Wan Chai, throwing petrol bombs at the heavily barricaded building.

At one point, they surrounded the equally barricaded government headquarters and the Legislative Council compound, hacking down a fence with metal poles and throwing bricks at riot police standing watch inside, as others flashed laser pointers at officers.


By night-time, the demonstrators fanned out across the harbour to Kowloon, in a flash mob-style protest in the tourist hub of Tsim Sha Tsui, setting off more fires along the main shopping artery of Nathan Road and its side streets.

Riot police again charged at them and fired rounds of tear gas. The protesters dispersed and reappeared an hour later farther north in Mong Kok, in even larger numbers.


Across many parts of the city throughout the day, the shrill sirens of fire engines pierced the air. Overhead, Super Puma helicopters dispatched by the Government Flying Service zigzagged across Admiralty, Wan Chai and Central, the roar of their rotor blades mixing with the battle cries of protesters in a soundscape of a city at war.

“This is an example of the Hong Kong government and police suppressing us,” retiree and protester Michael Chu, in his 60s, said at Chater Garden as the helicopters, which a government website said were used for “internal security and control of terrorist activities”, hovered above.

A government helicopter hovers above Central. Photo: Felix Wong
The MTR also suspended services at several stations throughout the day as the railway operator was armed with an injunction to shut down operations to prevent protesters from taking cover or using trains to move from one target to the next.

Still, that did not stop the mobs from vandalising several stations, including breaking a glass platform screen door at Wan Chai MTR station, jamming turnstiles at Admiralty and defacing walls there and at several stops, including Causeway Bay, Tin Hau and Fortress Hill.

By late night, sporadic but intense clashes between protesters and police moved to a new battlefield – MTR stations. In their hunt for protesters, officers were seen wielding their batons to club cowering commuters – some of whom wore masks – inside the cabin of one train at Prince Edward station. Several people were later seen bleeding and needing medical attention. At nearly midnight, the train operator suspended five of the network’s 10 lines.

In an early morning press conference, police said 40 people had been arrested inside Prince Edward station for “participating in an illegal assembly, destroying property and obstruction of justice”.

One clip showed officers from the squad hitting two men and two women in masks who were crying and cowering on the ground, while one officer pepper sprayed them.

Other footage showed several commuters bleeding from head wounds, and officers tying up suspects who had been wrestled to the ground.

A police water cannon fires blue dye at protesters n Harcourt Road in Admiralty, Hong Kong. Photo: Sam Tsang

Police said they entered the MTR station as there were protesters destroying ticketing machines and the MTR control room window, and said they had received emergency calls about a dispute in the station. Mong Kok MTR station was also vandalised.

“We disagree with the allegations police officers had entered the MTR stations to beat people up,” a police spokeswoman said.

Blue dye fired from water cannons – protesters adjust with clothes, cleaning tips

The nearly 10 hours of mayhem kept the city on edge as Hong Kong marked the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s announcement of a restrictive electoral reform package on universal suffrage setting out how the city could elect its chief executive from a list of pre-vetted candidates. The announcement sparked the 79-day Occupy protests of 2014.

Police had banned Saturday’s demonstrations citing serious security concerns and organisers said they cancelled the event but called on people to flash their cellphones at precisely 8.31pm to mark the fifth anniversary.

But the moment came and went unnoticed as protesters and police faced off in a what has become a regular routine of cat-and-mouse at multiple locations.

The day of defiance came in the wake of a police crackdown on prominent activists and three opposition lawmakers who were arrested on the eve of the banned march, all for alleged involvement in previous protests during the nearly three months of unrest that have rocked the city.

Earlier in the day, defying the police ban, large crowds – many donning their trademark black T-shirts and armed with their umbrellas – made their way, at first peacefully, through various streets of Hong Kong Island, taking over roads and chanting slogans such as “Save our freedom” and “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”.

Anti-government protesters filled the roads despite police refusing permission for a mass march and rally. Photo: Sam Tsang

Spotted in the crowds, too, were protesters who did not put on masks, openly daring police to arrest them for marching illegally.

But soon chaos reigned as radicals swarmed around the seat of government and finance in Admiralty and Central. The mob threw rocks, started fires and shined laser pointers at police officers behind a barricade at Legco.

By 5.30pm, police patience ran thin and the anti-riot water cannons came out, firing a relatively mild spray and rounds of tear gas to disperse the crowds, who fought back by throwing yet more petrol bombs and sparking fires.

Barely an hour later, protesters armed with metal poles had found a weak link in the blue-and-white water barricades around Legco – a stretch of metal fencing – and began hacking at it.

First-time protester enters the fray – unmasked, angry and certainly not alone

The water cannons made another appearance and from a distance across the road sprayed jets of blue liquid mixed with pepper spray as riot police fired more tear gas at the protesters.

The mob dispersed in different directions and within minutes was all but gone, leaving the mounds of mangled metal fences, rubbish bins, traffic cones and other junk they had amassed.

Riot police storm onto an MTR train in Prince Edward station. Photo: Handout
Protesters had stormed Legco on July 1, on the 22nd anniversary of the return of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule.

In a scene reminiscent of the storming of the building then, when protesters used a metal cart as their battering ram to smash through Legco’s glass exteriors, a group appeared with a makeshift barricade made of a section of stadium seats.

They used this fortification to start a fire and within minutes, a large blaze was lit. Three explosions were heard as they then threw petrol bombs into the flames.

Earlier, protesters tried to go to the official residence of embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor but were turned away by a phalanx of riot police.

Fires burn outside government headquarters after protesters hurl petrol bombs. Photo: Sam Tsang

John Cheung Kwok-keung, a 30-year-old import-export businessman, was among the protesters out and about, distributing supplies including meal coupons, masks and T-shirts.

He said he had been doing so since the demonstrations began in June, his supplies paid for by well-to-do parents of young protesters. Cheung said he was not deterred by warnings about the marches being illegal.

“I still have faith in Hong Kong’s courts and judges that I will be vindicated even if police move to arrest me,” he said.

Another protester, fully masked, said: “I don’t care. I will do my best to escape, but if it’s my fate, so be it.”

Chaos on Hong Kong’s MTR network as police chase protesters into station

Earlier in the day, protesters gathered at Southorn Playground in Wan Chai for a religious rally to “pray for sinners”, and they sang hymns before marching to Lam’s residence at Government House. The group insisted that as they were part of a religious event, they did not need police approval.

The “sinners” rally was organised after the Civil Human Rights Front cancelled a march from Central to Beijing’s liaison office in Western District after an appeals panel’s decision to uphold a police ban on the event.

They set off from the playground singing songs including “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord”.

Anti-government protesters set up barricades on Harcourt Road in Admiralty. Photo: Felix Wong

The only relatively safe area on Hong Kong Island during the day was Western district.

Police had ordered a lockdown, to protect the liaison office, with roads closed and public transport shut down by 1pm. Trams were suspended, the MTR service to Sai Ying Pun stopped and bus routes diverted.

Riot police make arrests in Prince Edward station. Photo: Handout

The liaison office – all but surrounded by two-metre high water-filled barriers, and with several police vehicles stationed nearby – stayed pristine throughout.

Last Sunday, a policeman fired a live round into the air after he and colleagues were chased and beaten by a mob wielding iron poles in Tsuen Wan. This Sunday, protesters have vowed to cause chaos at the airport in what could be yet another day of mayhem.