A yellow flag warning protesters of prosecution was spotted on the roof of the People’s Liberation Army barracks in Kowloon Tong on Sunday night. It is the first time that the ongoing protests have provoked a reaction from one of the city’s army bases.
Local media reported that it was a solider. An individual also shouted “all consequences are at your own risk” from the rooftop in Cantonese.
There are thousands of troops based in the city at any one time, but the number has doubled in recent weeks, according to Reuters.
The incident came after clashes broke out between riot police and pro-democracy protesters on multiple fronts.
Large demonstrations were planned for Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui, but violence quickly spread to other districts.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Friday invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to ban the use of face coverings at protests.
Two subsequent bids to suspend the law failed in court, and the regulation came into effect on Saturday.
Large-scale peaceful protests against a bill that would have enabled extraditions to China have evolved since June into sometimes violent displays of dissent over Beijing’s encroachment, democracy and alleged police brutality.
On Sunday afternoon, protesters went to the upscale neighbourhood of Kowloon Tong and set up barricades on Tat Chee Avenue and Waterloo Road.
Most of the demonstrators covered their faces with medical masks, or even facepaint or Halloween masks.
At around 5pm, riot police entered the nearby Baptist University (HKBU) campus, sparking a row with students. HKBU student leader Keith Fong said that three of his schoolmates were arrested, and police entered the campus afterwards without permission.
As night fell, protesters shone laser pointers at the Osborn Barracks – a base used by the Chinese army. Despite the warning flag displayed by soldiers, no clashes took place outside the building.
Journalist hit with Molotov
On Hong Kong Island, protesters took the familiar path of marching from Causeway Bay to Central. Police later fired tear gas in Admiralty and Wan Chai and drove the crowd back eastwards.
During a skirmish between protesters and police, an RTHK journalist was hit in his helmet by a Molotov cocktail.
His poncho was briefly set ablaze, before other reporters and protesters help put the fire out.
RTHK said the journalist suffered burns near his ear and was taken to Ruttonjee Hospital for treatment. The journalist did not appear to be the target of a deliberate attack, it added.
A spokesperson for the public broadcaster “seriously condemned acts of violence” and called on all parties to show restraint.
Meanwhile, HKFP witnessed riot police charge down Hennessy Road and subdue at least a dozen fleeing protesters.
Officers also fired large volleys of tear gas, which generated thick smoke, obscuring the view of the road.
In a statement, the police condemned the act of blocking roads, which it said can “endanger the safety of road users” and may constitute unlawful assembly or loitering.
The force also decried vandalism – which it called “hit-and-run destructive acts” – aimed at government buildings, Chinese state-run banks, shops and offices.
Such acts may constitute criminal damage or burglary, they said.
It advised residents to avoid going out via SMS message.
Residents in the vicinity are advised to stay at home and not to go out unless it is necessary.
— Hong Kong Police Force (@hkpoliceforce) October 6, 2019
Vigilantism on the rise
Multiple incidents of vigilantism were also reported on Sunday, with one victim being TVB actress Celine Ma – known for her pro-police stance. Ma was reportedly beaten after taking close-up photos of protesters outside Mong Kok Police Station.
TVB actress Celine Ma – a vocal supporter of the police – was beaten in a quarrel after reportedly taking close-up photos of protesters outside Mong Kok Police Station.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) October 6, 2019
Separately, protesters beat up a bare-chested, middle-aged man in Mong Kok after he threatened reporters. The man held a bamboo stick and claimed to have four knives in his bag.
At around 5pm, a taxi driver drove his vehicle into a crowd outside Cheung Sha Wan government offices, injuring at least one. The man was also beaten by protesters.
Wary of police intervention, pro-democracy protesters have been increasingly willing to take the law into their own hands. They described such vigilante justice as a “private resolution,” also jokingly referred to as a “Lion Bird” – derived from a pun on the words in Cantonese.
Police on Sunday condemned the incidents as “lynchings,” adding: “The atrocities committed by the rioters are far beyond the bottom line of any civilised society.”
Across the city, protesters were also seen evolving both their offensive and defensive strategies.
A group of black-clad men fashioned a catapult out of bamboo sticks in Mong Kok, which was used to launch bricks.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) October 6, 2019
Bamboo poles were also used to construct elaborate structures to block roads in Prince Edward.
In Wan Chai, a protester also tried to use a digger to create obstacles, but gave up after a few minutes.
Mask ban ‘only the beginning’
High Court judge Godfrey Lam on Sunday denied a bid by democrats to suspend the emergency mask ban.
Speaking outside the courthouse, Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said that, despite not granting an injunction, the court has agreed to hear the judicial review case later this month, he said.
“I believe the judge acknowledges that there is great public concern over the legal and constitutional questions arising from the Emergency Regulations Ordinance,” he told reporters.
It was rare for the court to arrange a judicial hearing so soon after the lawsuit was filed, he added. The suit was jointly filed by all 24 pro-democracy lawmakers the night before, with Kwok saying that the fight was about “authoritarianism versus rule of law.”
At the protest march, many said they were alarmed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s decision to bypass the legislature.
One protester who gave her surname as Lee said that she was disappointed, but not surprised, that the court sided with the government.
“If Carrie Lam is allowed to get away with the mask ban, she will feel safe to use it for whatever she wants,” she said, saying that she was particularly fearful of any internet censorship. “Once she restricts the internet, then we will really be no different from the mainland.”
Kenneth Liu, a 35-year-old technician, said that he would normally show his face during protests, but decided to wear a mask just to “spite” the government.
“It is not a crime to wear a mask, it is my freedom. You can’t turn it into a crime just by a click of your fingers,” he said.
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