Hong Kong protests: petrol bombs thrown in MTR station as demonstrators take to streets again

Kanis Leung

Hundreds of black-clad demonstrators took to the streets of Hong Kong again on Saturday to protest against the anti-mask law, and even as the rallies remained largely peaceful, petrol bombs were thrown at metro stations, while some shops were vandalised.

Protesters also gathered in Prince Edward and Wan Chai to call for an end to alleged police brutality, hours after Cardinal John Tong Hon, the head of Hong Kong’s Catholic community, made an appeal for peace on a radio programme and said law enforcement officers needed to perform their duties with their conscience.

“They also need to abide with the law, so that the people’s trust and respect in them can be rebuilt,” he said.

Tong added that while it was natural for people to be disappointed when their demands were not met, hatred would only give rise to violence, which only turned problems into more hurt.

 The protest came as US President Donald Trump said the trade deal he struck with China on Friday was “very positive” for Hong Kong and claimed the city’s anti-government protests had de-escalated significantly, leaving some demonstrators disappointed he did not push for their cause.

Shortly before Friday midnight, Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor wrote on her Facebook page that she hoped she could enter the Legislative Council building on Wednesday to deliver her policy address.

Turnstiles at the MTR station were damaged. Photo: Facebook/Hong Kong Police

Hong Kong has been roiled by more than four months of anti-government protests sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill.

Messages were previously circulated online, calling for people to march from Tsim Sha Tsui to Sham Shui Po or the West Kowloon high-speed railway terminus on Saturday.

The calls prompted the MTR Corp to implement special measures at West Kowloon, closing some entrances and requiring visitors to prove they had tickets before being allowed to enter.

But it was only the march to Sham Shui Po that took place.

Marchers gathered at the Clock Tower in Tsim Sha Tsui at 3pm for the unauthorised demonstration. Some of them carried American and British flags to urge the countries to stand with Hong Kong.

Minutes after the march began, protesters left the pavement and walked on Salisbury Road and Nathan Road, forcing vehicles to stop on the busy carriageways.

A Best Mart 360 store was vandalised in Yau Ma Tei. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

They also set up roadblocks at the junction of Haiphong Road and Nathan Road, disrupting traffic and causing confusion for passengers waiting at bus stops.

A 12-year-old girl, her face covered by a mask from the movie V for Vendetta, said fewer people joined the protests on Saturday as police had stepped up their efforts.

“I want to tell the government that even though they have the anti-mask law, we still have the rights to wear a mask,” she said.

Protesters gather in Tsim Sha Tsui ahead of their march to Sham Shui Po. Photo: SCMP

A 25-year-old protester named Son carried an American flag in Tsim Sha Tsui. He disagreed with Trump’s assessment that the movement had de-escalated and suspected the US leader did not know the real situation in the city.

“He’s been in talks with the Chinese, who obviously would suppress news they don’t agree with and not tell him the truth,” he said.

But others agreed with Trump. Secondary school pupil Harry Lai, 17, said fewer people had joined recent protests because the new school term had started. “But we still have passionate peers … When people are free, they will still come out,” he said.

Protesters said apart from the ban on masks, they were also concerned about a Chinese University student’s recent claim she was sexually assaulted by a policeman after being arrested on August 31, as well as what they described as the “mysterious” death of a 15-year-old girl who had been reported missing but whose body was revealed on Friday to have been found in the sea in September.

Protesters set up roadblocks on Nathan Road. Photo: Winson Wong

Addressing online rumours the teenager and others could have been killed by police, acting chief superintendent Kelvin Kong Wing-cheung said on Friday that an investigation, including an autopsy, found nothing suspicious about her death.

There was no protest in Kowloon Tong, but at about 3pm, two petrol bombs appeared to have been thrown at the MTR station, seriously damaging facilities. No one was injured.

Police said in a government statement, warning “rioters” to stop all illegal activities.

As the marching protesters reached Yau Ma Tei, some trashed a branch of Best Mart 360 and facilities at Kowloon Government Offices.

While most protesters dispersed after the march ended in Sham Shui Po at about 5pm, some vandalised a Starbucks outlet in Lai Chi Kok while others lit a fire at the entrance of the Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices. Both premises were closed at the time.

Outside the police’s headquarters in Wan Chai, about 40 middle-aged and elderly people kicked off a two-day sit-in to protest against alleged police brutality.

Meanwhile, more than 300 protesters gathered in Sha Tin’s New Town Plaza shopping centre to chant slogans. At 9.30pm, a dozen black-clad men in masks went to Sha Tin station and smashed turnstiles, a monitor and the glass screen of the customer service centre. They also pulled out a fire hose and sprayed into the centre, then fled after two minutes. The station operation was not affected.

Victoria Li, a young mother, joined the protests with her five-year-old son, who wore an Ant Man mask.

“It's very dangerous for Lam to invoke the Emergency Regulations Ordinance and bypass the entire legislature. Hong Kong will become no different from other mainland Chinese cities,” she said.

Protesters march with masks on. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

The mall, often a target of protesters, was largely peaceful. Retiree Jimmy Tsoi was happy to see calm had returned. Shopping with his wife, he said: “I am glad to see life is back to normal. I fully accept peaceful demonstrations but I don’t understand why they have to destroy shops here.”

According to media reports, at around 9.30pm, about five people in casual clothes with extendable batons appeared outside Mong Kok Police Station and detained at least two males believed to have been pointing laser pens at the station.

After returning to the station, police warned people outside to leave immediately because of unlawful assembly. Officers fired one shot at around 9.40pm after raising a blue flag then an orange flag as warning. A beanbag was seen on the ground and one pedestrian said it had hit her shoe, but she was not injured. 

Dozens of riot police came out of the police station to disperse crowds nearby about 30 minutes later.

Separately, Jocelyn Chau Hui-yan, 23, a candidate in the District Council election for the City Garden constituency in North Point, was attacked by a pedestrian on Sunday night.

 Chau said on Facebook that the attacker, a middle-aged man with a woman next to him, had taken her promotional leaflet at her roadside booth on Power Street in the estate at about 8pm, but he tore it apart and dropped it on the ground.

She asked him not to dump things on the ground, but he charged her after she drew her phone to take video. He also hit her in the head.

While walking away, the man threatened that he would assault her again in a mask next time, and he repeatedly used foul language.

In a video clip posted by Chau, the man was heard saying “I hit you, so what,” while the woman said in accented Cantonese, “call the police.”

 Chau was taken to Ruttonjee Hospital for treatment of minor injuries on her head and arms. She said she might contact the police later.

It was the second attack against pro-democracy candidates in a week. On Tuesday, hours after she had filed an application to run in the election, Jannelle Rosalynne Leung, 25, an accountant by training, was struck in the head with an unidentified object by a middle-aged man when she was canvassing alone on Yuet Wah Street. She was not seriously injured.

Before midnight, a government spokesman condemned the violent acts of masked rioters who had vandalised government facilities, MTR stations and a number of banks and shops.

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