Hong Kong protests: Tear gas deployed and petrol bombs thrown as the city enters its 21st week of demonstrations

South China Morning Post

Clashes began in Tsim Sha Tsui and spread to Mong Kok and Sham Shai Po, as shops were vandalised and MTR services were closed

South China Morning Post |

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Multiple rounds of tear gas are fired on Nathan Road in Mong Kok.

Hong Kong saw its 21st straight weekend of anti-government protests that spread from Tsim Sha Tsui to Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po on Sunday.

Protesters blocked roads, fought with police and hurled petrol bombs at them, vandalised shops, forced the closure of MTR stations and disrupted train services, while tear gas and water cannon were deployed against them.

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The clashes began in Tsim Sha Tsui in the afternoon as hundreds of protesters joined an illegal gathering at Salisbury Garden before 3pm to condemn the use of “chemical weapons” – tear gas and water cannons.

Tensions escalated as hundreds of officers in riot gear were deployed around the park and outside the Space Museum and Cultural Centre, with some conducting searches on protesters, many of whom wore masks in defiance of an official ban and were heckling police. 

Dozens of officers were also stationed around Chungking Mansions, a social and commercial hub for ethnic minority groups, as well as outside the Kowloon Mosque. 

A brawl broke out outside the Space Museum and police pepper-sprayed protesters who attacked them with umbrellas and other objects.

Police raised a black warning flag before firing tear gas at protesters, along with sponge-tipped and rubber bullets at 3.40pm. Several people were arrested.

Protesters gather at Salisbury Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Photo: SCMP/Sam Tsang

Many of the protesters moved on to Jordan, Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei, while more rowdy demonstrations erupted in other parts of Kowloon such as Sham Shui Po, To Kwa Wan and Whampoa.

Police said rioters set fire to shops in Jordan and hurled petrol bombs at the Sham Shui Po Police Station and the Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices.

One group of police officers was seen retreating into an MTR station in Mong Kok and closing the shutters behind them before firing tear gas at protesters in pursuit, who hurled objects through the metal grills.

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The station was shut down as a fire was started at one entrance, and that was followed by the closure of Yau Ma Tei station. Police said rioters had thrown “smoke grenades” at MTR entrances.

East Rail line services to the Lo Wu border were also disrupted as a rubbish bin and other objects were thrown onto the tracks near Hung Hom.

Masked protesters vandalised a branch of the snack food chain Best Mart 360, which had been boarded up. They broke in and started a fire inside.

Police officers are seen in Tsim Sha Tsui, ahead of anti-government protests.
Photo: SCMP/Felix Wong

In Yau Ma Tei, a man was attacked with hammers as a mob beat him up, accusing him of being an undercover officer and leaving him with a bloodied head.

On Sai Yeung Choi Street South, a wall panel at the entrance of a noodle shop caught fire from a tear gas round fired by police. A worker there, surnamed Cheung, said staff fled from the smell and retreated into the outlet.

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At about 11.30pm at the junction of Argyle Street and Nathan Road in Mong Kok, an officer in riot gear fired several rounds of tear gas without warning as he and his colleagues were about to board a van and leave.

The driver of a passing KMB double-decker bus on route 905 was overwhelmed by the gas and had to stop his vehicle in the middle of the road. More than a dozen passengers had to get off. Volunteer medics attended to the driver while KMB staff drove the bus away.

Driver of a KMB bus receiving medical attention after the air-condition system of the bus circulates tear gases in Mong Kok.
Photo: SCMP/ Edmond So

After being repeatedly criticised for concealing their identification numbers, some police officers were seen displaying white cards on their uniforms, specifying the acronyms and numbers of the district or unit they belonged to.

Earlier in Tsim Sha Tsui, more than 20 protesters stood in front of the Kowloon Mosque to “protect” it, as a water cannon truck and two armoured vehicles made their way down Nathan Road. Police and top government officials had to apologise to Muslim community leaders after the entrance of the mosque was “accidentally” hit with a water cannon last weekend.

One of those at the mosque was James Ahamed, a Hongkonger of Sri Lankan descent who has lived in the city for more than 50 years. He attended prayers before sunset at the mosque.

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“After four months, we’ve got used to [the protests] now. I stand with Hongkongers,” he said.

After the water cannon vehicle passed by the mosque without incident, it sprayed a clear liquid at protesters near the Holiday Inn hotel on Mody Road, and again in Jordan.

A hotel valet said the chemical liquid only hit some windows. “To be honest it didn’t really hit the protesters either, they all ran away. It didn’t affect our guests at all,” he said.

A MTR Exit in Mong Kok is seen on fire.
Photo: SCMP/ Sam Tsang

In a statement, the government said “rioters once again took the opportunity to go on a rampage and commit arson in various places, seriously undermining social order and jeopardising people’s lives and property”. It strongly condemned their acts.

The Hospital Authority said as of 10pm, 11 people had been sent to three hospitals. A man remained in serious condition at Caritas Medical Centre, while seven men and two women were in stable or satisfactory condition, and one man was discharged.