Multiple railway stations were closed as Hong Kong protests wreaked havoc on the MTR network, on another night of violence and tear gas on the city’s streets.
Hong Kong’s rail operator shut Prince Edward station during Friday’s rush hour after crowds gathered there calling for the release of CCTV footage of police taking action against anti-government protesters at the interchange on August 31.
Tear gas was later fired on Nathan Road, one of Hong Kong’s main thoroughfares, before crowds and vandalism forced the closure of most of the Tsuen Wan line, with all services suspended between Central and Mei Foo.
There were ugly scenes further south on Canton Road, where witnesses saw a man lashing out with a meat cleaver, leading protesters to besiege the residential building where he was believed to be hiding.
The MTR Corporation said shortly before the midnight that services were suspended to ensure staff and passenger safety “as equipment at Prince Edward, Mong Kok, and Yau Ma Tei stations is damaged and crowds gather near to stations”.
Tear gas was released to disperse protesters on Nathan Road at about 9.20pm on Friday, just after what appeared to be the firing of beanbag rounds from Mong Kok Police Station.
More tear gas was fired on Kowloon’s main arterial road at about 10.40pm.
Hundreds of people assembled outside Prince Edward station after it was closed, blocking traffic at the intersection of Prince Edward Road West and Nathan Road, before the throng spilled onto neighbouring streets.
Protesters built barricades on Nathan Road, close to Shantung Street. Several fires were lit in the area but quickly put out by firefighters.
Facilities were vandalised at Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei stations as protesters spread out in Kowloon.
The MTR Corp announced the closure of Prince Edward station at about 5.15pm, citing safety reasons. The station remained closed into the night.
Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei stations were also closed because of damage, before the Tsuen Wan route was effectively taken offline.
Trains on both the Tsuen Wan and Kwun Tong lines would run as normal, but would not stop at the affected stations, the company said.
From about 11pm on Friday, protesters surrounded a residential building in Canton Road, close to Nelson Street, believing a man – who was earlier said to have attacked at least three people with a meat cleaver – was hiding inside.
Some demonstrators were equipped with steel bars and wooden sticks, as they heckled the person they thought was inside and flashed lights into the building.
According to witnesses and footage from the scene, a middle-aged man in a red T-shirt was waving a cleaver and steel bar at protesters while a woman next to him, who was believed to be his wife, tried to stop him.
“His wife got stabbed in the abdomen,” a witness told media.
Another man told journalists he was injured by the man earlier. “It was too fast. I don't know if I was attacked by the steel bar or knife,” he said.
A young man in a mask said he also suffered injuries to the back of his hand and neck. Paramedics arrived on Canton Road at around 11.30pm.
The man with the meat cleaver, who was alleged to have gone for protesters, came out of the building to a waiting ambulance with his right hand wrapped up and was followed by a woman and a younger man
“I was under attack ... I was trying to protect myself,” the older man shouted in response to reporters asking him why he attacked others.
The MTR had earlier given assurances that the requested video footage relating to the August 31 incident at Prince Edward railway station would be kept for three years.
With online rumours swirling it would destroy the CCTV records and calls for it to disclose the video, a spokesman for the operator said: “Normally, our footage will be destroyed after 28 days. But in the event of special incidents that will need to be examined, the relevant footage will be kept for three years.”
The spokesman added only authorised people would be allowed to see the footage.
At about 7am on Friday, a black-clad young woman wearing a grey hat and a face mask knelt down outside the station’s staff control room, begging the MTR Corp to disclose the CCTV footage. The woman left placards on the floor proclaiming she would go on a hunger strike.
Her action drew a large crowd of supporters and spectators, with another two people joining her in kneeling down three hours later.
The station was shut down for two days after the night of August 31 when members of the Special Tactical Squad, known as Raptors, took action against radical protesters inside the station. Journalists and first aid attendants were all denied entry after the passengers were dispersed.
The trio eventually left at noon after lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, of the Labour Party, came to the station with the MTR reply. He said his lawyers had been helping the victims of the police action and they would apply for a copy of the video record to help with their case.
Police actions at the station had drawn a public outcry as protesters and their supporters accused officers of behaving like gangsters and indiscriminately beating commuters.
But the force has been adamant in maintaining officers only went after radicals who had changed their clothes after trashing the station and brawling with other passengers.
A total of 63 people have been arrested in relation to the Prince Edward MTR station incident, for charges including possession of offensive weapons, criminal damage and unlawful assembly.
There were also rumours that three protesters had died inside the station after it was shut down on August 31.
However, an MTR spokesman strongly denied the allegation. “According to the station record, there was no such thing about people dying inside the station,” he said.
An MTR station employee who preferred to remain anonymous said relevant staff had confirmed to him only seven protesters were sent to a hospital via Lai Chi Kok station, a few stops up the line.
He added even if protesters had obtained the video, they might not get the whole picture about what happened inside the station.
“There are a lot of blind spots and hidden corners in Prince Edward station, the CCTV cameras do not cover every angle,” he said.
After the crowds left Prince Edward station on Friday, hundreds gathered at exit B1, where residents placed flowers and built a makeshift Chinese shrine.
They were chanting slogans such as “five demands, not one less”, directed at Mong Kok Police Station, which is next to the exit.
Commuters were having to make alternative travel arrangements during the station’s closure on Friday.
A domestic worker, who declined to give her name, was on her way to pick up her employer's child when confronted with the closed station.
“I don't know what is happening. How do I get to Wong Tai Sin now?” she said, before deciding to take a bus.
“I'm going to be late. I need to go back.”
More from South China Morning Post:
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- Commission of inquiry is possible but let’s not look into individual police officers’ conduct: IPCC chief Anthony Neoh
This article Hong Kong protests: tear gas fired on Nathan Road as demonstrations force closure of multiple MTR stations, including Prince Edward, Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei first appeared on South China Morning Post