Tear gas fired as Hong Kong rally marking eight months since Yuen Long attacks leads to protesters blocking streets, starting fire

Kanis Leung

A demonstration by more than 100 people on Saturday to mark eight months since the mob beatings in Hong Kong’s Yuen Long district led to protesters blocking roads and starting a small fire, as police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The rally centred on the events of July 21 last year, when a group of white-clad men wielding metal rods and wooden poles attacked protesters and commuters indiscriminately at the district’s MTR station and on a train, injuring 45.

Police were accused of arriving late to the scene, while the force said manpower had been tied down dealing with violent protests in the city centre.

Demonstrators set cardboard alight in Yuen Long during a protest marking eight months since a group of men armed with poles indiscriminately beat anti-government protesters and bystanders at the local MTR station. Photo: Dickson Lee

On Saturday, demonstrators started a fire on Tai Tong Road and blocked some lanes in the district, prompting officers to rush to the area soon before 9pm to disperse the crowd.

Members of police’s Special Tactical Squad, known as Raptors, subdued at least two people.

Protesters initially planned to march on Castle Peak Road in Yuen Long and stage a silent evening sit-in at three rail stations: Causeway Bay, Chai Wan and Heng Fa Chuen.

More than 100 people showed up in Yuen Long shouting slogans such as “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time!”, “Hong Kong independence is the only way out” and “five demands, not one less” at about 7pm.

The scene had been largely calm early on despite the heavy presence of police officers in Yuen Long and Causeway Bay. Police intercepted some people dressed in black and performed body searches.

A riot police officer points at a photographer during a rally commemorating eight months since the violent mob attack in Yuen Long. Photo: Dickson Lee

On Saturday, the MTR Corporation kept Yuen Long station open on the 21st of a month for the first time since August, though it closed some exits at 4pm.

By January, a total of 37 people – some with links to triads – had been arrested over the Yuen Long attacks, seven of whom were charged with rioting.

Police have said they are continuing to collect evidence.

Among those arrested on Saturday evening was Yuen Long district council chairman Zachary Wong Wai-yin.

A joint statement from chairmen at 17 different councils said: “We ... condemn police for using excessive force and abusing arrest proceedings, hurting Hongkongers' freedom.”

By the early hours of Sunday, clashes were still ongoing between protesters and riot police in Yuen Long, with pepper spray deployed by officers to disperse crowds as angry onlookers hurled verbal abuse.

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