Hong Kong protests: Demonstrations against face mask ban lead to tear gas and pepper spray in Tai Koo

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South China Morning Post

Other rallies against the proposed law took place in Sha Tin, Yuen Long, Kwun Tong and Tseung Kwan O

South China Morning Post |
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Tear gas is fired on King’s Road on Thursday night.

The normally quiet neighborhood of Tai Koo saw tear gas and pepper spray on Thursday night as anti-government protesters demonstrated against a proposed mask ban at public gatherings.

Anti-government protesters unleashed chaos in Hong Kong’s upper middle-class neighbourhood of Tai Koo on Thursday during a second night of citywide rallies, while riot police responded with tear gas and pepper spray.

Rallies planned in 11 sites and major shopping centres followed media reports that the government was to decide on Friday whether to invoke the emergency law to ban the use of face masks in protests.

Law to ban face masks at public assemblies to be enacted by government

The sites included Cityplaza in Tai Koo, New Town Plaza in Sha Tin, Yoho mall in Yuen Long, APM mall in Kwun Tong and Popcorn mall in Tseung Kwan O.

The scenes were largely peaceful, except in Tai Koo, where a crowd of angry protesters occupied King’s Road – a main traffic artery on Hong Kong Island – charging at riot police as uniformed officers struggled to return to their vehicles. Pepper spray was deployed, followed later by tear gas at around 10pm. Tear gas was again fired in the same location a little more than an hour later.

One protester had earlier been subdued by officers and taken away, triggering a larger crowd and shouts of “release the man” which echoed around King’s Road.
 
Protesters protect themselves after anti-riot police use pepper spray in Tai Koo.
Photo: SCMP/ Dickson Lee

The chaos started with a confrontation in the Tai Koo metro station where about 300 protesters faced off with a group of riot police officers.

While some officers wore face masks, the protesters, many unmasked and in plain clothes, jammed the concourse of the station. They hurled verbal abuse to provoke the officers and threw dog food at them, asking them to pull down their masks. Calling officers “dogs” has been a long-standing insult during the anti-government movement.
 
After a 90-minute stand-off, officers left to jeers and boos, followed by protesters who continued to hurl abuse.
 
 
The station was a flashpoint of the protests in August when police stormed it to arrest protesters who had set up positions there. The intensity of the police action, broadcast on television, led to police being confronted by angry residents of the residential estate.
 
At 10.20pm, the MTR said Kwun Tong station was closed after an incident, and trains would not stop there. Before the announcement, facilities were damaged, including a fire hose. Riot police arrived a few minutes after the closure and were heckled by residents from Yue Man Square outside the station. A second station, Tai Po Market, also was closed about 30 minutes later. Two other stations, Ngau Tau Kok and Tai Koo, were closed later in the evening.
 
Elsewhere on Thursday night, a crowd of about 300 masked protesters gathered at New Town Plaza shopping mall after 8pm. The group, including some in school uniform, took over the atrium of the mall. They sang protest songs, including Glory to Hong Kong, which has come to be regarded as Hong Kong’s “national anthem” of protest.
 
Anti-riot police with a mask covering most of his face standing by inside Tai Koo Station.
Photo: SCMP/ Dickson Lee

Later, in the same mall, the Citizens Press Conference – a group that claims to represents the protesters’ voices – said they would stay put despite the enactment of an anti-mask law. A group spokesman said: “We are not afraid. The Carrie Lam regime can’t frighten us off. The pro-government people like to boast that there are also anti-mask laws in overseas countries. It is laughable. Those are democratic countries. How can Hong Kong, a place where there is no democracy, compare with those countries?”

The group urged protesters to continue to press the government to fulfil their five demands.
 
Similar peaceful protests also took place earlier in the evening in Landmark North in Sheung Shui, tmtplaza in Tuen Mun and Tai Po Mega Mall.
 

 

In Yoho mall, more than 200 black-clad masked protesters occupied the atrium of the mall and sang protest songs from 8pm. Afterward, they went to the front of Peking Garden restaurant, a chain under Maxim’s Group, mocking diners. They stayed there for 15 minutes before leaving to cause further disturbance at the mall’s food court, which they claimed was also run by Maxim’s.

No mall security guards were seen intervening.

Protesters targeted the restaurant group after Annie Wu, the daughter of its founder, recently voiced support for police use of tear gas to suppress the violent clashes.

Protesters take to the streets after teen protester is shot during anti-government demonstrations

Elsewhere in Tsuen Wan, about 100 protesters rallied in the Sha Tsui Road Playground in Tsuen Wan in support of Tsang Chi-kin, 18, a student at a local secondary school – Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College – who was hit by a live round fired by riot police during violent clashes on October 1.

A “Lennon Wall” created at the college was filled with messages of support from dozens of alumni and neighbours for the Form Five student, who was in stable condition after surgery.

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