Tear gas, clashes as Hong Kong protestors march again against bill

29, Jul. 2019

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HONG KONG, Kyodo - Clashes between protestors and police erupted Sunday following another march in central Hong Kong against a controversial extradition bill.

Hundreds of thousands of people, without police approval, marched in the afternoon from the Chater Garden in Central toward the shopping district of Causeway Bay, chanting slogans against the bill and accusing the police of using excessive force on protesters last Sunday after a peaceful rally descended into chaos.

Roadblocks were set up in the shopping district as a main road was occupied by protesters.

In the evening the police fired several rounds of tear gas to disperse protestors rallying near the Central Government Liaison Office, Beijing's representative office, in western Hong Kong Island. Massive barriers had been erected around the office in preparation for the protestors.

Hundreds of helmeted protesters wielding umbrellas, bamboo sticks and styrofoam shields faced off with armed riot police at several spots along main roads linking the liaison office and the business district in Central.

The police made their way forward while protesters keep backing up following rounds of clashes. The tit-for-tat standoff continued into the night.

In last Sunday's protest, anti-China protesters sprayed graffiti on the walls and defaced the national emblem of the liaison office. Later that night, more radical protestors clashed with police, who allegedly fired nonlethal weapons in a bid to disperse them, injuring some.

“The government doesn't act like it wants to solve the problem, otherwise it wouldn't drag on that long,” said Jenny Mak, a 49-year-old church worker. “We could only fight on to draw international attention, hopefully that will give pressure to the government, and the pro-establishment camp.”

Many also accused the police of colluding with triad gang members who last Sunday brutally attacked protestors in a subway station in Hong Kong's Yuen Long neighborhood.

Among them was 68-year-old retiree Ricky Chui, who also voiced hope in the government.

“The government has been disappointing, but we do what we can, continue and be persistent (in seeking a response),” he said.

The protesters demanded a full withdrawal of the now-suspended extradition bill, which could allow fugitive transfer to mainland China for trial.

They also wanted the retraction of a police characterization of a June 12 rally as a riot, pardons for protesters who have been arrested, the establishment of an independent inquiry into alleged police wrongdoing, and the holding of democratic elections.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who spearheaded the extradition bill, has suspended the legislative process but has refused to withdraw it altogether. She also opposes an inquiry into police actions amid the protests, citing morale concerns.

The continuing trend of public protests since June, coupled with occasional clashes between protesters and police and the most recent mob attack on protesters have added to growing public discontent with the government's lack of response to the demands.