Hong Kong protests: Mask ban demonstrations enter fourth day, with tear gas and arrests

South China Morning Post

16 MTR stations were vandalised and a man was punched after saying 'HK is a Chinese place'

South China Morning Post |

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Riot police on the streets in Mong Kok.

Following a relatively calm day, protesters blocked roads, set off fires and trashed MTR stations in multiple districts of the city on Monday evening, continuing their demostrations against the new anti-mask law.

The protests began peacefully at several malls in the late afternoon, after a university student and an unemployed woman became the first to be charged under the mask ban targeting anti-government protesters. Both were granted bail.

City University student among first charged under the new mask ban

Since Friday, radical protesters have gone on a rampaging spree, vandalising banks and stores associated with mainland China, trashing government buildings and train stations, targeting police by throwing significantly bigger petrol bombs, and engaging in bloody fist fights.

The gatherings on Monday were relatively smaller and less violent, but as night fell, protesters showed up in Mong Kok and Tseung Kwan O, with some setting up roadblocks in another confrontation with riot police, who fired tear gas and non-lethal rounds. Many were arrested.

Into the evening, hundreds continued to block roads in Tai Koo and Mong Kok, with a march starting towards Yau Ma Tei. Sixteen train stations were vandalised, including Tseung Kwan O, Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin, Sha Tin Wai and City One, and five Light Rail stops.

Riot police on the streets in Mong Kok.
Photo: SCMP / Edmond So

Elsewhere, demonstrators had heeded online calls and went to at least 10 shopping centres in districts such as Diamond Hill, Sha Tin, Kwai Fong, Tai Koo, Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun. The turnouts ranged from 100 to a few hundred.

A man was punched in Sha Tin after he unfurled a Chinese flag in New Town Plaza mall, and said: “Hong Kong is a Chinese place.” He boarded a bus after leaving the mall, but protesters stopped the vehicle from leaving, as another man punched him in the face. Riot police eventually arrived to escort the victim away.

With Monday marking the Chung Yeung Festival, protesters also gathered outside exit B1 of Prince Edward MTR station – near Mong Kok Police Station, a flashpoint – to burn paper offerings.

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Prince Edward station was the scene of clashes between officers and protesters on August 31, which sparked rumours that people had died under police brutality. The force, Hospital Authority and fire service have all repeatedly debunked the accusations.

Among those who went to Prince Edward was Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, who said he now believed people had died in the station.

On a footbridge connecting Kwai Fong MTR station to the Metroplaza mall, two banners were unfurled to criticise the city’s embattled police and Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

People place flowers outside Prince Edward Station.
Photo: SCMP / Edmond So

“Residents cover their face while Lam covers her conscience,” the words on one banner stated.

While Causeway Bay – a protest hotspot over the weekend – was mostly peaceful on Monday, a large banner was unfurled urging shoppers not to purchase anything amid a “no-buy day”.

On a radio programme, pro-Beijing politician Ip Kwok-him, an adviser in Lam’s de facto cabinet, the Executive Council, was asked if the government would invoke emergency powers to shut down the city’s internet connection with the outside world. Ip said the government would not rule out using any means to stop violence.
Anti-government protesters gather and sing at Tai Koo Shing.
Photo: SCMP / Nora Tam

Earlier in the day, about 400 people started to gather in New Town Plaza in Sha Tin at 3pm, singing protest anthems Glory to Hong Kong and Do You Hear the People Sing. Slogans such as “Reclaim Hong Kong; revolution of our times” and “Stand with Hong Kong” were also chanted, echoing throughout the mall.

Most of the shops in New Town Plaza began closing at around 5pm.

Tourism industry worker Anka Tam, 61, also said she came to support young people in their fight for democracy.

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“I will continue to come to the gatherings. I live nearby, so I have to pass by New Town Plaza on the way home. I don’t think they have disrupted my everyday life. I avoid taking the MTR, and will take the bus when I head out,” she said.

At Plaza Hollywood in Diamond Hill, more than 100 angry demonstrators and residents gathered at an atrium, chanting slogans such as “Hongkongers, resist” and “Everyone has a right to wear a mask”, while singing songs of protest against the anti-mask law.

A Form Three student surnamed Lee, who wore a surgical mask and led some of the slogan-chanting, said she defied the new law because “wearing a mask is a human right, which should never be restricted by law”.

Police fire tear gas in Mong Kok.
Photo: SCMP/ Edmond So

She accused police of still wearing masks during operations but intimidating reporters for similar wear when they were covering protests, calling the move “unacceptable”.

Many shops, including restaurants at Plaza Hollywood remained open throughout Monday, but at an optical store, no customers were seen by 6pm, as the MTR closed its services.

A staff member at the store said sales had dropped from about 20 to 30 purchases on normal days to just four to five transactions, blaming it on the MTR closures.