No let-up as Hong Kong protesters back on streets

Hong Kong's protests saw the first arrests on Sunday under emergency laws that ban protesters from hiding their faces.
A police officer washing the eyes of a protester arrested near Prince Edward MTR station yesterday. Groups of protesters targeted several MTR stations which had been shut for the day, breaking through metal barriers and trashing the concourse. ST PHO
A police officer washing the eyes of a protester arrested near Prince Edward MTR station yesterday. Groups of protesters targeted several MTR stations which had been shut for the day, breaking through metal barriers and trashing the concourse. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

MTR stations hit as two people are first to be charged under anti-face mask law

With a partially opened rail network, slower trains and shorter supermarket opening hours, Hong Kong yesterday attempted to return to normalcy after an angry weekend of demonstrations against a face-mask ban.

However, by evening, protesters once again rampaged through the streets in several districts, clashing with police and leaving a trail of destruction.

They took to the streets in Yuen Long, Sha Tin and Mong Kok where they marched and chanted protest slogans. Some tossed metal barricades and bricks on roads to disrupt traffic in Prince Edward, and there was a clash with officers outside the Mong Kok Police Station, where several rounds of tear gas were fired.

In Yuen Long, they shone laser pointers and taunted several men believed to be from mainland China, shouting at them to "leave" and "go back to the mainland".

Groups of protesters targeted several MTR stations which had been shut for the day, breaking through metal barriers and trashing the concourse. These included City One, Sha Tin Wai and Tseung Kwan O.

A crowd also surrounded the Mong Kok Police Station, the scene of several clashes, where they built barricades on the roads, started fires and tossed glass bottles into the compound. Police initially responded with pepper spray, but later fired several rounds of tear gas.

The ante has been raised since Chief Executive Carrie Lam last Friday invoked a colonial-era emergency law to bring back "peace and order" to the city, with protesters marching defiantly against the ban at the weekend with their faces covered, and trashing Chinese state-owned businesses.

Yesterday, two anti-government protesters, an 18-year-old male university student and an unemployed 38-year-old woman, were charged in court with illegally wearing a mask, making them the first to be charged under the new law. They face up to a year in jail.

 
 
 

The protests have hurt public transport. Early yesterday morning, a public holiday in the city, rail operator MTR Corporation said only 39 of its 93 stations would be operational, while trains would stop running at 6pm to facilitate repair works.

Still, the city tried to limp back to normalcy. Following a weekend where two of the city's biggest supermarket chains - ParknShop and Wellcome - shut early, triggering a wave of panic buying, some outlets replenished their stocks yesterday. It was a sharp contrast to empty shelves at the weekend.

"My friends told me to rush to the supermarket last weekend too, but what is the point? It is not like we are facing a typhoon or anything," said a Tin Hau resident who wanted to be known only as Madam Leung.

Shopping malls, including Sogo, which had been the starting point of marches at the weekend, gradually reopened in the day. However, at least two supermarket chains - Yata and Wellcome - and 7-Eleven convenience stores have announced they will shutter earlier to allow their staff to get home more easily in anticipation of the disrupted public transport system.

Workers were seen making repairs at Chinese state-owned banks, which had been targeted by protesters, but several Bank of China ATMs in Wan Chai remained out of order, white lights briefly flickering through broken black screens.

The former British colony has been roiled by increasingly violent protests for four months, which began in opposition to a Bill that would have allowed extradition to mainland China but have spiralled into a broader pro-democracy movement.

Mr Chris Patten, the final governor of Hong Kong, told Sky News: "Before long, unless we are very, very lucky, people are going to get killed, people are going to be shot."

He added: "The idea that with public order policing you send police forces out with live ammunition is preposterous."

 
 

Meanwhile, the general manager of the Houston Rockets said yesterday that a tweet backing Hong Kong protests, which caused a major backlash, was not meant to offend the NBA team's massive Chinese fan base.

Mr Daryl Morey's comments came as the NBA issued a statement distancing itself from the offending tweet, with Chinese broadcaster CCTV saying it will stop showing Houston Rockets games.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2019, with the headline 'No let-up as HK protesters back on streets'. Print Edition | Subscribe