Hong Kong Protests Turn to Chaos Amid Tear Gas and Petrol Bombs

By Reuters
August 31, 2019 Updated: September 1, 2019

HONG KONG—Hong Kong police fired tear gas and water cannons on Aug. 31 as pro-democracy protesters threw petrol bombs in the latest clashes that have plunged the city into its worst political crisis in decades.

Police fired round after round of tear gas as protesters took cover behind umbrellas between the local headquarters of China’s military and government. Protesters also threw bricks dug up from pathways at police.

The water cannon unleashed blue-dyed water, traditionally used to make it easier for police to identify protesters later.

Riot police then marched on foot toward the neighboring Admiralty district, followed by 20 police cars, where protesters had thrown fire bombs from flyovers, some landing close to police. Others shone blue and green lasers at police lines.

Riot police fires tear gas from the balcony of the government headquarters building to disperse protesters.
Riot police fires tear gas from the balcony of the government headquarters building to disperse protesters, in Hong Kong, on August 31, 2019. (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

In the Wan Chai bar and restaurant district, police fought running battles with protesters, beating them with truncheons. There were several arrests.

The protests, which at one point blocked three key roads, came on the fifth anniversary of a decision by the Chinese regime to curtail democratic reforms and rule out universal suffrage in Hong Kong, a former British colony that was returned to China in 1997.

Civil Human Rights Front, a local pro-democracy group, had organized a Saturday march to call for universal suffrage, but it canceled the event after police refused to approve its application.

Meanwhile, the People’s Liberation Army, the official name for the Chinese military, on Thursday rotated its troops in Hong Kong in what it said was a routine operation.

Despite the cancelation and veiled threats by Beijing, thousands took to the streets for a largely peaceful, meandering rally in the afternoon rain. Many of them joined a “Christian march” from Wan Chai and congregating next to the Legislative Council building.

Other protesters, many wearing black and face masks, marched in the Causeway Bay shopping district. The crowds grew after dusk in Wan Chai, where demonstrators built roadblocks and banged iron sticks.

At one point, protesters made makeshift barricades on the main Hennessy Road, then set them alight. Firefighters battled the huge blaze. Then, riot police and water cannons moved in.

There were also standoffs in North Point and Fortress Hill, to the east of Causeway Bay, and tear gas was fired against protesters over the harbor in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The protests have gone on for three months, sometimes turning violent, and have at times targeted the airport, the legislature, and the Liaison Office, the symbol of Chinese rule.

Hovering under an umbrella outside the government offices, Eric, a 22-year-old student, said telling people not to protest was like telling them not to breathe. “I feel it’s my duty to fight for democracy. Maybe we win, maybe we lose. But we fight.”

Police erected water-filled plastic barriers around key government buildings, and two water cannons, used briefly for the first time last weekend, were at the ready near the Liaison Office, still daubed with graffiti from an earlier protest.

By Joe Brock and Farah Master. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.