Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam's plea yesterday for a chance to talk failed to move anti-government protesters, who again clashed with riot police in eastern Kowloon as demonstrations in the city entered the 12th straight weekend.
After a brief respite the previous weekend when demonstrations were peaceful, a group of hardcore protesters yesterday clashed with police, throwing petrol bombs and spraying fire extinguishers at officers, who then fired rounds of tear gas to disperse the crowd after repeated warnings proved "futile".
In a statement, police said violent protesters occupied roads next to the Ngau Tau Kok Division police station, started fires and hurled bricks at officers.
Some protesters also sawed a "smart lamp post" and toppled it, to the cheers of others who watched on.
As part of a pilot project, 50 such lamp posts have been installed in Kwun Tong. The lamp posts have built-in sensors and cameras that can be used to monitor traffic flow, air quality and the weather.
But there were concerns that the technology would allow the government to spy on individuals and identify protesters.
From Kowloon Bay, a large group of hardcore protesters moved to Wong Tai Sin, where they aimed laser beams at police and hurled bricks at police cordon lines. Police fired tear gas to try and disperse the protesters, and made some arrests.
Some of the hardcore protesters also moved to Sham Shui Po and set up barricades to block a section of the street outside the Sham Shui Po police station.
Earlier in the afternoon, hundreds of protesters marched from Tsun Yip Street Playground in Kwun Tong to Zero Carbon Building in Kowloon Bay.
Yesterday's clashes came even as Mrs Lam said in a Facebook post, titled We Are All Tired, that her meeting earlier in the day with dozens of prominent individuals, including university heads and former secretaries, was for participants to suggest ideas for her proposal to set up a platform for dialogue.
FIGHTING IS NOT THE WAY OUT
I know in the current deadlock, the anger in the community is very deep. Some citizens are highly unsatisfied and even infuriated that the government is unable to fully meet all five of their demands... I'm not hoping that the dialogue will easily resolve the gridlock, stop clashes during protests or provide solutions to the situation, but prolonged fighting is not the way out.
HONG KONG LEADER CARRIE LAM, in her Facebook post titled We Are All Tired.
"I know in the current deadlock, the anger in the community is very deep. Some citizens are highly unsatisfied and even infuriated that the government is unable to fully meet all five of their demands."
The protesters' five key demands include an independent inquiry into police brutality, a full withdrawal of the now-suspended extradition Bill, and greater democracy.
"I'm not hoping that the dialogue will easily resolve the gridlock, stop clashes during protests or provide solutions to the situation, but prolonged fighting is not the way out."
The unhappiness in society has been rising and could breed hatred, Mrs Lam wrote, adding: "After more than two months of escalated protests, we are all tired, can we just sit and talk?"
Dozens, including former chief secretary Henry Tang and former transport chief Anthony Cheung, turned up for the session in the morning, while some members of the League of Social Democrats assembled outside the front entrance of Government House to protest.
The group criticised the session, saying those invited to the meeting would not be able to produce a channel for genuine dialogue with the people.
Mrs Lam's plea came after the city's train operator and airport authorities were put on alert to deal with anticipated disruption to their services in the light of planned protests, including a rally on Aug 31 and calls for an islandwide strike on Sept 2.
In an unprecedented move, train operator MTR Corporation was granted an interim injunction to suspend services on the Kwun Tong line and close some stations, ahead of a protest march yesterday.
The decision by MTR led some protesters to gather outside Kwun Tong Station, chanting "hak seh wui" or "triads" in Cantonese, in a reference to the police for the latter's suspected ties to gangsters.
March organiser Ventus Lau blasted the MTR's decision and warned that the train operator not only inconvenienced people across East Kowloon, but also put participants at risk of danger, given that there is no way for them to leave the area after the march.
Later in the day, the train operator confirmed it had a special train to send police to the various stations where services were suspended.