Monday, 1 Jun 2020

Clashes across Hong Kong after call for mall protests

An attempt by protesters to stage sit-ins at upmarket malls across Hong Kong yesterday ended in clashes, with police firing multiple volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets after demonstrators built barricades, vandalised shops and started fires in several districts.

There were pitched street battles in the busy Mong Kok shopping district that lasted late into the night, and in several town centres in the New Territories area.

After anti-government demonstrators built barricades on the roads and started small fires in Mong Kok, police repeatedly tried to disperse the crowds with tear gas and warnings before eventually deploying water cannon, an oft-repeated sequence of events in the past few months.

Outside the City Walk mall in Tsuen Wan, police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters, and a journalist from local TV station Now TV was hit in the arm.

Some protesters had trashed several shops in Sha Tin linked to the Maxim Catering Group, including a Starbucks and a Maxim’s restaurant, overturning tables and vandalising the premises. Their anger at the firm stems from pro-Beijing comments from the founder’s daughter Annie Wu.

Angry residents could be seen confronting and heckling police officers in several areas.

Scores also gathered at a multi-storey carpark in Tseung Kwan O, where a student had fallen from the third storey. He died from his injuries last Friday, the first death linked to the unrest in the city.

In a statement, police condemned the protesters’ actions, warning them to “immediately stop their illegal acts”.

“Having given repeated warnings in vain, police officers (are) now using minimum necessary force to effect dispersal and arrest action,” the statement said.

A man reacts as police fires a water cannon to disperse bystanders in the Mong Kok, Hong Kong on Nov 10, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

Organisers had earlier called for sit-ins at malls across the city, including IFC in the Central district, Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong and New Town Plaza in Sha Tin.

Last week, similar gatherings at several malls across the city resulted in fierce clashes with the police. The violence escalated after a man attacked a family with a knife and later bit off the ear of a district councillor.

On the main Hong Kong Island, crowds gathered peacefully at Chater Garden in the city centre for a prayer session to remember Chow Tsz-lok, the student who died.

Protesters have issued a call for a strike and class boycott today, and for others to disrupt traffic across the city at the crack of dawn.

Similar calls recently have met with little success.

Meanwhile, police officers intending to get married are facing a boycott in the wedding industry.

Photographers, make-up artists and gown rental companies have issued a statement saying they would not accept bookings from police officers until an independent commission is set up to investigate police brutality in the face of the protests.

“Unfortunately, it has come to the point where it is no longer viable for us to provide our genuine blessing to any clients from the police force during their wedding, as incidents involving potential police misconduct re-occur on a daily basis.

“We can no longer turn a blind eye to such events,” said the statement which was widely shared on social media.

Hong Kong has been gripped by five months of unrest sparked by a government move to introduce a controversial extradition Bill.

The Bill has since been withdrawn but the protest movement has evolved into one calling for greater democracy and investigations into alleged police brutality.

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