Hong Kong police condemn 'unprecedented, outrageous' violence, vandalism by protesters

An anti-government protester stands near a fire in Hong Kong's Wong Tai Sin district on Oct 4, 2019. Many banks, stores and businesses with mainland background or are considered patriotic were targeted by the rioters. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (XINHUA) - Violence and vandalism spread to various districts of Hong Kong on Friday (Oct 4) and escalated to an "unprecedented and outrageous" level, the Hong Kong police said on Saturday.

At a press briefing early on Saturday, Senior Superintendent of Police Public Relations Branch Yu Hoi Kwan said unlawful assemblies with some violent acts started at noon on Friday in the Central district and spread to 14 out of 18 districts during a short period of time in the evening, with the protesters hurling petrol bombs, committing arson, blocking roads, attacking policemen and residents, and vandalising shops and metro stations.

The police displayed video clips from the media showing the rioters damaging banks and shops, setting fires on public facilities including a mass transit railway (MTR) train, and assaulting residents and a police officer.

In one of the clips, when a plainclothes police officer fell onto the ground after being attacked by a group of rioters, petrol bombs were thrown at him and caused him to be on fire.

In the incident occurring at around 9pm on Friday in Yuen Long district, the police officer was facing a serious threat to his life and fired one shot in self-defence, Ms Yu said, adding that a protester even tried to snatch the officer's pistol during the attack.

She emphasised that the police officer was completely outnumbered by a large group of rioters and was under serious life threat, and his decision to open fire was legal and reasonable.

Acting like robbers, the rioters broke into shops and even damaged the reel gates of banks and set fires inside, Ms Yu said, adding that the rioters' acts, with an unprecedented level of violence and seriously disrupting the community, were "outrageous and disgusting".

The senior police officer said it is distressing to see more people being injured in the violent incidents, and the police appeal to people from various sectors of the community to work together in opposing all forms of violence and restoring social order.

Given the escalation of the situation, the MTR Corporation suspended all train services late on Friday. With a number of bus routes also suspended, the public transport system in Hong Kong was almost paralysed.

Many banks, stores and businesses with the mainland background or considered patriotic were targeted by the rioters on Friday.

Hong Kong Monetary Authority said in a statement on Saturday that some banks had to suspend services at certain branches due to vandalised facilities and traffic disruptions, and recent incidents of vandalism and arson attacks have seriously affected the use of banking services by the public.

"Any form of vandalism and violence should be condemned," the statement said.

"We hope that social order will be restored soon, allowing banks to resume normal operations and serve businesses and members of the public."

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