Anger over police violence fueled fresh rounds of protest on Hong Kong streets in the city’s 16th restive weekend since the mass anti-extradition movement began, prompting pepper spray and tear gas from the police.
Crowds in thousands began to gather under the sweltering sun as early as 2:00 p.m. for an authorized march scheduled from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., turning the football court in Tuen Mun, New Territories, into a sea of umbrellas.
They put their hands on their chest and sang in unison their protest anthem “Glory to Hong Kong,” a song marking the territory’s promised high-level autonomy when it was returned to China. Some also chanted the popularized slogans such as “Five Demands, No One Less,” “Reclaim Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of pro-democracy protesters filled up a shopping mall near the subway station in the northwestern district of Yuen Long, around 40 minutes away from Tuen Mun by train.
The train operators suspended or rerouted several metro lines hours before the planned demonstrations. Dozens of armed police officers went to the Tuen Mun subway station and arrested at least one black-clad person ahead of the protest for possessing “offensive weapons,” upon finding typical protester gear such as spray paint, gas mask, helmet, and gloves in his backpack.
Police fired sponge grenades to disperse people about an hour into the protest, forcing the event organizer to cut short the march. At least one reporter was hurt by the pellet rounds. The police also made a series of arrests in a convenience store where protesters had fled to.
At least three medics along with a number of protesters were arrested in the ensuing cat-and-mouse chases with the police. Video footage from Yuen Long toward the evening also showed two elderly men sitting on the ground with eyes shut—the police had pepper-sprayed them in the face for trying to stop them from hitting young protesters.
Dozens of Beijing supporters had earlier torn down some of the large murals of colorful sticky notes supporting the protests’ cause and denouncing perceived Chinese regime meddling in the former British colony. The murals, dubbed Lennon Walls after the John Lennon Wall in communist-controlled Prague in the 1980s, have popped up across the city’s bus stops, footbridges, pedestrian walkways, and shopping centers.
Opposition over a now-withdrawn extradition bill in June has since broadened into calls for universal suffrage, greater democracy, and independent investigation into police violence.
Public trust in the police began to erode about two months ago over the officers’ delayed response to the mob attack at Yuen Long station. On the night of July 21, following a 430,000-strong march, dozens of white-shirted mobs attacked returning protesters, journalists, and passers-by with metal sticks and wooden poles, injuring 45 people. The police did not arrive at the scene until some 40 minutes later, despite having a police station nearby.
Pro-Beijing legislator Junius Ho, who has been a vocal critic of the protests, was filmed laughing and shaking hands with the attackers.
Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Council have both observed escalating police violence toward protesters, with some conduct violating international standards.
During the latest police controversy, officers stormed into metro stations on Aug. 31 night, charging train passengers with pepper spray and tear gas, leaving many screaming and bleeding on their heads.
In a Sept. 19 report based on 38 interviews with lawyers, medics, and arrested activists, Amnesty International concluded that the “Hong Kong’s security forces have engaged in a disturbing pattern of reckless and unlawful tactics against people during the protests.”
The police said during a Sept. 20 briefing that they have fired around 3,100 tear gas canisters, 590 rubber bullets, 80 bean bag rounds, and 290 sponge grenades. Around 1,500 protesters, ages varying from 12 to 84, have been arrested in relation to the protests.
Reuters and the Hong Kong bureau of The Epoch Times contributed to this report.