HONG KONG • Hong Kong police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in the upmarket Causeway Bay shopping district yesterday, after demonstrators rallied at the United States consulate calling for help in bringing democracy to the Chinese-ruled city.
Tens of thousands marched peacefully to the US consulate in a gathering that stretched for blocks in every direction. Waving the American flag, they sang The Star-Spangled Banner and called on US President Donald Trump to "liberate" the city.
"Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong," they shouted before handing over petitions at the US consulate. "Resist Beijing, liberate Hong Kong."
The protesters' call for the US to intervene in the crisis is sure to infuriate Beijing, which has accused some countries of interference in China's internal affairs.
The vandalism started in the evening. Activists put up barricades, smashed windows, started street fires and vandalised the MTR metro station in Central.
The Central district, home to banks, jewellery shops and luxury shopping arcades, was awash in graffiti, broken glass and bricks torn up from pathways.
Protesters set fires using cardboard boxes and built barricades with metal fencing.
Riot police dispersed the demonstrators in parts of Central only for them to disperse to nearby Admiralty, the bar district of Wan Chai and on to Causeway Bay in a now familiar pattern of cat-and-mouse clashes over three months of unrest. Several arrests were made.
"We can't leave because there are riot police," said a 20-year-old protester who gave his name as Oscar, in Causeway Bay. "They fired tear gas from the station. We are heading to North Point."
North Point is east of Causeway Bay.
Pockets of protests broke out in Kowloon over the harbour from the main island of Hong Kong last night, including in Prince Edward, close to Mong Kok.
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper last Saturday urged China to exercise restraint in Hong Kong, which returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Mr Esper made his call in Paris as police in Hong Kong prevented protesters from blocking access to the airport and fired tear gas for a second night running in the densely populated district of Mong Kok.
Last month, Mr Trump suggested China should "humanely" settle the problem in Hong Kong before a trade deal is reached with Washington. Earlier, he called the protests "riots" that were a matter for China to deal with.
US legislation addressing China's actions in Hong Kong will be among the top priorities pushed by Senate Democrats when Congress returns to work after a recess this week, their leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, said last Thursday.
Mr Schumer urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican who sets the floor agenda, to bring up a bipartisan Bill that would require an annual justification of the special treatment afforded by Washington to Hong Kong, including special trade and business privileges, under the US Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.
The legislation, called the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, would also mandate that officials in China and Hong Kong who have undermined the city's autonomy be vulnerable to sanctions.
Meanwhile, Joshua Wong, one of the leaders of the pro-democracy "Umbrella" movement five years ago, was re-arrested at the airport yesterday on his return from Germany and the US for allegedly breaching bail conditions.
He had been charged with inciting and participating in an unauthorised assembly outside police headquarters on June 21 and released on bail.
"Preliminary legal advice suggested that the court had acknowledged and approved my trips to Germany and the US when it granted bail on Aug 30," he said in a statement. "Therefore, it is believed that there are some mistakes that have been made on the bail certificate."
He said he thought he would be freed today.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced concessions last week aimed at ending the protests, including formally scrapping a hugely unpopular extradition Bill, which ignited the unrest in June. Many protesters said it was too little, too late.
The Bill would have allowed the extradition of people to mainland China to stand trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party. Hong Kong has an independent judiciary dating back to British rule.
But the demonstrations have long since broadened into calls for democracy.