Tens of thousands joined a peaceful march on Sunday in a resurgence of large-scale street protests in Hong Kong, but the event ended in clashes and tear gas in Tsim Sha Tsui, Whampoa and Mong Kok.
From around 3pm, huge crowds of black-clad demonstrators began to walk from the Tsim Sha Tsui clocktower to Hung Hom.
The march – one of three approved rallies on the day – was themed “Don’t forget our original intentions,” a reference to the ongoing pro-democracy protest movement which has entered its sixth month.
Crowds shouted popular slogans such as “Five demands, not one less” and “Disband the police force without delay,” with many accusing Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s administration of failing to respond to public concerns over police accountability and democratic reform.
Pro-democracy candidates led a landslide victory in the District Council elections last week, in a move widely seen as signalling public support for the protest movement.
“Carrie Lam said she wanted peace, and we gave her peace for two weeks,” one anonymous protester told HKFP. “But what has she done since then? She is crazy if she believes this means we have forgotten [our grievances].”
Another protester who gave her surname as Lin told HKFP she was angered by the police siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which was lifted on Friday.
“It is wrong to say that the situation has calmed down because the police and the government are still unrepentant about cracking down on ordinary people,” she told HKFP.
The event organiser estimated that over 380,000 had attended the march, though police put the peak turnout at 16,000.
Protesters spilt out onto Salisbury Road soon after the march started. At around 4pm, police revoked the Letter of No Objection for the march – just one hour after it began.
In a statement, the force said police had fired tear gas after demonstrators near Mody Road Garden threw bricks at officers, while another group “hurled smoke bombs” near Empire Centre.
Barricades were formed along the harbourfront to slow the police advance and allow peaceful protesters a route to leave. pic.twitter.com/otWyrN3fa2
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) December 1, 2019
Riot police were also spotted using pepper spray outside Chungking Mansions, near the Sheraton Hotel and into the K11 Musea mall.
Officers also charged into Salisbury Garden – part of the initially approved route – and threw a tear gas grenade. Multiple arrests were subsequently made.
News footage from NowTV also showed officers charging into a Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station exit and using pepper spray against crowds, while an officer pushed over a kneeling woman who appeared to be pleading with them.
On Sunday night, the MTR Corporation announced that normal service hours would resume on Monday, though University station – next to the Chinese University of Hong Kong – on the East Rail Line will remain closed for repairs. The rail operator has been the target of extensive vandalism for months owing to allegations of kowtowing to police.
After nightfall on Sunday, the upscale residential neighbourhood of Whampoa became a flashpoint between protesters and police. The force said that “masked rioters” had “recklessly damaging facilities” in the area, blocking Hung Hom Road and Tak Man Street while vandalising shops with alleged pro-Beijing ties.
An HKFP reported witnessed protesters targeting shops including Best Mart 360, Yoshinoya and Genki Sushi, as well as the Whampoa MTR station. Riot police and Special Tactical Squad officers – also known as “raptors” – rushed onto the scene, detaining at least one man in the process.
Riot police fired volleys of tear gas as the night progressed with some projectiles landing on a pedestrian footbridge, RTHK reported. Officers also fired bean bag bullets and other projectiles, news footage showed.
Police also detained at least 10 people in the vicinity of Whampoa and Hung Hom with officers entering private residential estates to conduct searches.
Following familiar patterns since August, protesters and police clashed in Mong Kok from 9pm onwards, with officers apprehending passersby en masse and conducting body searches.
Earlier on Sunday, two smaller separate rallies were held on Hong Kong island. One group marched to the United States Consulate-General to thank Washington for passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which aims to punish those considered to be suppressing freedoms in the city. Another protested against the widespread use of tear gas by the Hong Kong police.
Both events only saw minor confrontations.
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