Hong Kong police fired tear gas after protesters gathered in Causeway Bay to rally against the looming national security law announced earlier this week by Beijing.
Thousands of demonstrators convened at SOGO department store in Causeway Bay at around 1pm on Sunday and began marching to Wan Chai’s Southorn Playground.
In response, police fired tear gas at the crossroads of Hennessy Road and Percival Street, and near the Hysan Place mall.
It was the largest protests since the Covid-19 outbreak, despite social distancing rules – limiting groups to eight people – remaining in place.
Demonstrators chanted “Free Hong Kong,” and “Hong Kong independence is the only way out.”
Such slogans could become illegal when the national security law – which is likely to target secession, subversion, and terrorism – kicks in.
Riot police earlier raised blue banners calling on protesters to disperse after arresting People Power Vice-chair Tam Tak-chi.
Masked protesters smashed the windows of fashion boutique A Bathing Ape – belonging to Hong Kong conglomerate I.T, whose owner is accused of being pro-Beijing. Demonstrators pulled mannequins out from its window display, using them as makeshift roadblocks.
An I.T store was also targeted.
Along Hennessy Road police deployed a water cannon truck, which struck nearby journalists, as well as along Canal Road underneath the flyover.
The force arrested at least 180 people, mostly in connection with allegedly participating in an illegal assembly, according to a police statement.
“[A] large group of rioters set barricades on Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay with miscellaneous objects, including rubbish bins, bamboo sticks and stones. Rioters climbed over railings and dashed through a flyover and multiple carriageways in the vicinity, causing serious obstruction to road traffic. They also rampaged through passing vehicles, posing serious threat to public safety,” a police press release said.
Officers said protesters attacked a 41-year-old man and a woman in separate incidents relating to makeshift barricades, according to RTHK.
Sha Tin District Councillor Raymond Li was also arrested under the Canal Road Flyover in Causeway Bay, according to his Facebook page.
According to the Hospital Authority, as of 6pm, a total of six people – two men and four women – were sent to Ruttonjee Hospital after feeling unwell or being injured at Sunday’s protest.
A 51-year-old woman is in a critical condition. Two men and two women are in a stable condition, while one woman has been discharged.
Cat-and-mouse chases between police and demonstrators continued throughout the afternoon but eased as night fell.
Protesters have shifted their focus from the national anthem bill to the national security law after the National People’s Congress decided to draft a law that may be inserted into the annex of the city’s mini-constitution.
The pro-democracy camp raised concerns, calling it the “death of Hong Kong,” and the end of One Country, Two Systems.
More demonstrations are set for Wednesday when the national anthem bill is set to arrive at the legislative main chamber.