Hong Kong protests: Tear gas deployed in Wan Chai and Central; Xinhua News Agency attacked during Saturday's demonstrations

South China Morning Post

More than 200 people were arrested and 54 injured and taken to hospital during the 22nd weekend of unrest

South China Morning Post |

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Police march down a road in Wan Chai to disperse protesters as a barricade burns.

Tear gas was deployed early on in anti-government demonstrations this weekend, as police adopted a more aggressive tactic in battling protesters.

The clashes took place mainly in the densely populated commercial districts of Causeway Bay, Wan Chai, Central, Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui.

Police’s use of water cannons, tear gas, pepper spray and batons were met with flaming barricades and petrol bombs from protesters as the two sides played cat-and-mouse throughout the night.

More than 200 people were arrested on Saturday for protest-related offences, including unlawful assembly and violating the mask ban, police said at 1am on Sunday.

As of 7.30am on Sunday, 54 people were injured and taken to hospital. A man in Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei was in a serious condition, 23 were stable and the remaining 30 have been discharged.

Some MTR stations and businesses with mainland connections again fell victim to vandalism. The office of Xinhua News Agency in Wan Chai was attacked for the first time, with its glass doors and windows smashed.

People stand inside the lobby of China's Xinhua News Agency, damaged by protesters.
Photo: AP

Some protesters also tried to torch the building by throwing petrol bombs into the lobby – when some Xinhua staff were still working inside. Fortunately, the fire was contained and did not cause any extensive damage.

The Hong Kong News Executives’ Association and the Hong Kong Journalists Association both issued statements condemning the attack and demanding police look into it.

A few blocks away, a first-aider was directly hit by a tear-gas canister and suffered burns on his back, according to a video by City Broadcasting Channel, run by City University’s student union, that captured the moment.

Anti-government protesters clash with riot police in Wan Chai.
Photo: SCMP / Edmond So

Police arrested several protesters. Eleven people were injured and sent to hospitals, including a man in serious condition.

Police also continued their aggressive tactics first adopted last week. They would now take quick action to disperse the crowd instead of forming a defence line first.

Earlier this week, police rejected the application by protesters to hold a rally in Victoria Park. Undaunted, thousands showed up on the pretext of holding “election hustings” for the coming district council elections. This, alongside three authorised rallies in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, all kick-started in the afternoon.

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Under a huge police presence, the crowds began to gather in Causeway Bay and tensions mounted quickly. Riot police soon moved in to disperse the crowd, first pepper-spraying those who refused to back down and also making a number of arrests.

At 3.55pm, the first round of tear gas was fired in Causeway Bay. Unlike in previous weekends, police did not wait until they were attacked before going on the offensive.

The protesters, by now well-equipped and well-drilled for such an occasion, dispersed into the side streets but quickly regrouped to hassle officers.

The clashes soon spread from Causeway Bay, with tear gas fired near Southorn Playground in Wan Chai and on Wyndham Street in Central. Many bars and restaurants in the area were forced to shut doors and close businesses early. Some set fires on the streets to stop officers from advancing.

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Once again, businesses thought to have mainland ties or holding pro-government views were subject to vandalism. Two Best Mart 360 stores in Causeway Bay were trashed, and a Starbucks branch in Sheung Wan was also targeted.

Some entrances of MTR stations, including Causeway Bay and Mong Kok, were also trashed and burned.

Across the harbour on Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, riot police clashed with people taking part in an unauthorised gathering. Clashes broke out outside Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station as well as at the Kowloon Mosque where police accidentally fired blue-dyed water cannon sprays last month, forcing embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to publicly apologise to the Muslim community.

Riot police stand off with anti-government protesters in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Photo: SCMP / Jonathan Wong

In Mong Kok, a man was assaulted by a group of black-clad people and repeatedly kicked, with his clothes, including his pants, torn off. He had to be treated by first-aiders arriving at the scene.

Lam, who was on a business trip to the mainland, again appealed for a return of calm and peace.

“The huge unrest and violence in the past few months have inevitably affected people’s confidence in Hong Kong,” she said at a conference in Nanjing.

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Those arrested, who numbered more than 200, were arrested on suspicion of offences of unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons, criminal damage, and concealing their faces.

The organised crime and triad bureau arrested four men and a woman for possession of offensive weapons. Officers seized weapons including 188 petrol bombs, several extendable batons and pepper spray.