Police use pepper spray as protesters at regular lunchtime rallies in Hong Kong say their fight is far from over

Kathleen Magramo

Lunchtime demonstrations across Hong Kong continued on Friday with workers turning up in the major industrial district of Cheung Sha Wan in Kowloon occupying multiple junctions, and others gathering in Central and Kowloon Bay.

As with a couple of days ago, the protest drew smaller crowds than they did before election weekend, with just 400 or so rallying in key commercial and residential districts, blocking roads and disrupting traffic.

Just before 2pm, police used pepper spray against the crowd outside the Audemars Piguet luxury watch store on Pedder Street, after protesters heckled officers. One man was arrested in the clash, and officers then cordoned off the street, not allowing anyone on either side to cross.

At 1pm, some 100 protesters occupied the intersection between Cheung Lai Street and Cheung Shun Street in Cheung Sha Wan, many masked as they chanted slogans and raised their palms – a symbol of their five political demands.

Traffic was disrupted as vehicles including taxis and buses were stuck along Cheung Shun Street.

Besides the regular white collar workers taking part many secondary school students in uniform were also spotted at the Cheung Sha Wan protests during their lunch break, and some said they wanted to show they were determined to continue until the five demands are met.

Anti-government protesters gather at lunchtime in Cheung Sha Wan. Photo: RTHK

One demonstrator dressed as Winnie the Pooh, a slight at Chinese President Xi Jinping who has been compared to the bear in the past.

“I think we have to still be determined [to fight for our demands], or else we would be left with nothing,” he said.

Officers at a nearby police station broadcast messages over a loudspeaker at about 1.10pm, demanding protesters retreat immediately to the pavement. But demonstrators ignored the warning and later proceeded towards Cheung Sha Wan Road at about 1.20pm, blocking both directions of Cheung Sha Wan Road.

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In Cheung Sha Wan, the crowd retreated onto the pavement as riot police with shields and batons arrived at the junction between Cheung Shun Street and Cheung Lai Street at 2pm. Traffic returned to normal soon after.

Across Victoria Harbour, in Central, hundreds of masked protesters showed up at around 1pm as the crowd went up and down the pavement and attempted to block Pedder Street by 1.30pm.

Many of those present said their determination to come out to protest had not diminished after several weeks of similar protests.

Police disperse anti-government protesters in Central. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Chan, a 35-year-old finance worker, said he wished to fight for universal suffrage.

“Hong Kong’s lunchtime protests in Central has become world famous,” he said, “I will keep on coming until we have universal suffrage.”

He was not worried about being arrested as he said younger frontline protesters had sacrificed more than he had over the nearly six months of protests.

Another finance worker, Ng, had joined lunchtime protests every day for almost three weeks.

“My daily routine is to join the protests during lunch break then get a sandwich and eat it at my desk,” she said.

Ng is also planning to join a Thanksgiving march on Sunday.

“The human rights act signals to the government that our movement has international support,” she said, referring to US President Donald Trump’s signing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on Wednesday.

In Wong Chuk Hang, Tai Koo and Kowloon Bay, dozens of protesters also gathered at lunchtime and marched along peacefully along the pavement, with some protesters in Tai Koo holding up posters “thanking” Trump for signing the legislation.

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