Hong Kong protesters burn China flag, police fire pepper spray

Above: A girl reacting after saying she was let go when police found nothing incriminating on her during a search in Yuen Long yesterday. Below: A government supporter removing banners and posters backing the demonstrations across Hong Kong from a "L
A girl reacting after saying she was let go when police found nothing incriminating on her during a search in Yuen Long yesterday. PHOTOS: CHONG JUN LIANG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Above: A girl reacting after saying she was let go when police found nothing incriminating on her during a search in Yuen Long yesterday. Below: A government supporter removing banners and posters backing the demonstrations across Hong Kong from a "L
A government supporter removing banners and posters backing the demonstrations across Hong Kong from a "Lennon Wall" in an underground walkway in the Aberdeen area. The supporters were heeding a call by pro-Beijing city legislator Junius Ho to tear them down.PHOTOS: CHONG JUN LIANG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

But yesterday's rallies relatively small and peaceful compared with previous protests

HONG KONG • Protesters in Hong Kong burned a China flag and police fired pepper spray yesterday in renewed clashes over anti-government grievances.

Police accused some protesters of throwing petrol bombs after a march by several thousand people in Tuen Mun, an outlying district in the Chinese territory's north-west.

The event was relatively small compared with previous demonstrations that have taken place every weekend since June.

The protests started with opposition to a proposed extradition law and have expanded to include demands for greater democracy.

The events are an embarrassment for China's Communist Party ahead of Oct 1 celebrations of its 70th anniversary in power. Hong Kong's government announced it has cancelled a fireworks display that day, citing concern for public safety.

In Tuen Mun, protesters marched about 2km from a playground to a government office building. Many were dressed in black and carried umbrellas, a symbol of their movement.

Protesters chanted "Reclaim Hong Kong!" and "Revolution of our times!" Most were peaceful, but some took down a China flag from a pole outside a government office and set fire to it.

A government statement said some protesters "threw petrol bombs", but gave no details of possible injuries or damage.

Some demonstrators later moved to the Yoho Mall shopping complex in the nearby town of Yuen Long, where a largely peaceful demonstration marked the two-month anniversary of what protesters have dubbed the "Yuen Long terrorist attack" on July 21, when men in white T-shirts beat unarmed protesters with sticks and metal rods in the mall's adjoining train station.

 
 
 
 

Elsewhere, scuffles were reported as government supporters heeded a call by pro-Beijing city legislator Junius Ho to tear down large mosaics of colourful posted notes, known as "Lennon Walls", supporting the protests across the city.

Hong Kong's leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, has agreed to withdraw the extradition Bill. But protesters are pressing for other demands to be met, including an independent investigation of complaints about police violence during earlier demonstrations.

Protesters complain that Beijing and Mrs Lam's government are eroding the "high degree of autonomy" and Western-style civil liberties promised to the former British colony when it was returned to China in 1997.

The protests have begun to weigh on Hong Kong's economy, which already was slowing due to cooling global consumer demand. The Hong Kong airport said passenger traffic fell last month, and business is down at hotels and retailers.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong airport announced restrictions on access today following what it said were calls to disrupt traffic there.

The airport train from downtown will skip Kowloon and other stops en route, the airport authority said. Only passengers with valid tickets and travel documents will be allowed into the airport.

Mr Bernard Chan, Mrs Lam's top adviser, said the unrest should start letting up after three months of protests as she makes a concerted effort to address the concerns raised by the demonstrators.

The city's leader plans to hold a dialogue with Hong Kongers and will also address the underlying issues raised by the protesters - from the lack of affordable housing to rising income disparity - during an annual policy speech next month, the convener of Hong Kong's Executive Council said in an interview on Friday in Los Angeles.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 22, 2019, with the headline 'HK protesters burn China flag, police fire pepper spray'. Print Edition | Subscribe