Hong Kong protests: Warning shots fired as thousands defy police ban to march on streets

Above: Protesters building a barricade in Hennessy Road in Hong Kong yesterday, in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law that has since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city. They have taken to the s
Smoke engulfing a street after demonstrators set a barricade on fire yesterday. Chaos engulfed the city's financial heart as protesters defied a police ban on such rallies. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Above: Protesters building a barricade in Hennessy Road in Hong Kong yesterday, in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law that has since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city. They have taken to the s
Protesters building a barricade in Hennessy Road in Hong Kong yesterday, in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law that has since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city. They have taken to the streets for a 13th straight weekend.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
A protester hurling back an exploded tear gas shell, as the police shot blue-coloured water from water cannon in central Hong Kong yesterday. Thousands of demonstrators marched in the muggy weather armed with umbrellas.
The police firing tear gas in Causeway Bay district yesterday, to disperse the crowd. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The police firing tear gas in Causeway Bay district yesterday, to disperse the crowd.
A protester being detained by the police in Causeway Bay yesterday. Thousands of demonstrators ignored the police ban. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Above: Protesters building a barricade in Hennessy Road in Hong Kong yesterday, in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law that has since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city. They have taken to the s
A protester hurling back an exploded tear gas shell, as the police shot blue-coloured water from water cannon in central Hong Kong yesterday. Thousands of demonstrators marched in the muggy weather armed with umbrellas. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Report says officer under attack fired twice; HK police battle protesters with water cannon

A policeman opened fire twice with live rounds as a warning after he came under attack yesterday, the second time this has happened in weeks of mass protests, as several districts in Hong Kong descended into chaos with anti-government protesters defying a police ban against a planned rally.

The plainclothes officer was believed to have resorted to his service revolver after he was set upon by protesters in Causeway Bay and fired two shots into the sky, media outlet HK01 reported.

The incident occurred at the end of a day of multiple street battles between demonstrators and the riot police who rolled out water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The 13th consecutive weekend of demonstrations since June 9 came after the police last Thursday, citing reasons of safety, rejected an application for a march to Beijing's liaison office in the city.

But thousands of demonstrators, young and old, ignored the ban yesterday and took over key thoroughfares in Causeway Bay, Wan Chai, Admiralty and Central, paralysing traffic in the afternoon, as they marched on the roads in the muggy weather armed with umbrellas.

They marched with no clear destination, shouting slogans including "fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong" and "Hong Kong, gah yau", or "Hong Kong, keep it up", after assembling at Southorn Playground in Wan Chai.

One of those in the march, who wanted to be known only as Mr K. Fung, told The Sunday Times that he was there to help out in whatever way he could, be it to direct traffic or to help if the triads came and bothered people.

The 39-year-old odd-job labourer said the government has "got it wrong if it thinks this is an issue that concerns the younger people".

Yesterday's protests followed a wave of arrests ahead of Aug 31, the fifth anniversary of Beijing's announcement of a political reform framework that stated there must be screening for the Chief Executive elections in the city, but this was eventually rejected by the Legislative Council.

"This (political crisis) concerns all of us in Hong Kong," he said.

Asked if he was afraid of getting arrested, Mr Fung said that in Hong Kong there were two things that people now feared: the triads and some police.

Later, hundreds of protesters surrounded the government headquarters and legislature in Admiralty. They pelted eggs at police officers who stood behind giant water barriers that stretched round the complex, tried to prise open metal gates leading into the building and threw petrol bombs at and over the barricades.

Police first used pepper spray on the protesters before firing multiple rounds of tear gas into the crowd in Harcourt Road and later deployed the water cannon, which included several rounds containing a blue dye.

Overhead, at least two helicopters with Government Flying Service livery hovered as protesters shone powerful laser beams at them.

Protesters also flung flaming projectiles into the compound of the People's Liberation Army garrison, right next to the government headquarters.

 
 
 
 

As night fell, the demonstrations then spread to Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and later, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok, shopping districts popular with tourists.

Security in the city was beefed up yesterday, particularly in Sai Ying Pun where Beijing's liaison office - a previous target of some hardcore protesters - is located.

Train operator MTR closed Sai Ying Pun station, while sections of roads on Hong Kong island were cordoned off, and tram services suspended.

A group of protesters heeded a call circulated on social media last Friday for people to join a Christian gathering in Wan Chai and to march to Central and Upper Albert Road where Chief Executive Carrie Lam's official residence is located. But they were thwarted by armed police who stopped them from accessing the road.

Yesterday's protests followed a wave of arrests ahead of Aug 31, the fifth anniversary of Beijing's announcement of a political reform framework that stated there must be screening for the Chief Executive elections in the city, but this was eventually rejected by the Legislative Council.

The move resulted in the Umbrella Movement that lasted 79 days, during which key roads in the city centre were occupied.

Over the past few days, several activists and lawmakers have been arrested, including pro-independence party Demosisto's secretary-general Joshua Wong, core member Agnes Chow and Mr Au Nok Hin. All three are now out on bail.

They face charges ranging from taking part in unauthorised demonstrations to assaulting officers by using a loudhailer too loudly.

More protests are expected today with calls for people to swamp the public transportation networks heading towards the airport. A two-day strike from tomorrow has also been planned - the second such call after Aug 5, when protests were held in multiple districts and later turned violent and chaotic.


PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

The demonstrations that have spanned five months were sparked after the government mooted a controversial Bill - now suspended - that would allow the authorities to extradite people to jurisdictions which Hong Kong has no formal extradition agreements with, including mainland China.

But the protests have since morphed into a broader movement seeking universal suffrage and an independent probe into alleged police brutality.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 01, 2019, with the headline 'Warning shots fired as thousands defy police ban'. Print Edition | Subscribe