Thousands of protesters took to Hong Kong’s streets again today for two new demonstrations after police fired tear gas at the crowds last night. Months of protest against a suggested bill to allow individuals to be extradited to stand trial in mainland China have rocked the Chinese-controlled town.
In addition to the tensions, a general strike is planned for tomorrow to bring the city to a halt and hundreds of people marching today have been heard calling for this to happen. In confrontations with black-clad militants, some carrying umbrellas, in the Kowloon region of the city, police shot several tear gas rounds last night.
In an early Sunday declaration, police said they detained more than 20 individuals overnight for crimes including unlawful assembly and attack. Today in the city of Tseung Kwan O in the New Territories, thousands of demonstrators marched peacefully brandishing colorful banners and flyers. The demonstrators cheered dressed in black as they called for Monday’s mass strike across Hong Kong. The umbrellas have been a prime symbol of the pro-democracy movements in the city since Occupy Central protests in 2014.
They try to inform the government to cancel the extradition bill and police to prevent inquiries and violence, said Gabriel Lee, a twenty-one-year-old student of technology. Lee said the most upset thing about him was that the government did not respond to any of the requirements of the demonstrators or examine police violence. Saturday’s protesters set fires on the roads outside a police station and in rubbish bins, blocking the entrance to the Cross-Harbor Tunnel, cutting a significant artery connecting Hong Kong Island with the Kowloon Peninsula.
Major shops in the popular tourist and commercial area Nathan Road, normally packed on a Saturday, were shuttered including 7-11 convenience stores, jewellery chain Chow Tai Fook and watch brands Rolex and Tudor. What started as an angry response to the now suspended extradition bill, has expanded to demands for greater democracy and the resignation of leader Carrie Lam. The protests have become the most serious political crisis in Hong Kong since it returned to Chinese rule 22 years ago after being governed by Britain.
Thousands of civil servants joined in the anti-government protests on Friday for the first time since they started in June, defying a warning from authorities to remain politically neutral.The protests also mark the biggest popular challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he took office in 2012.
China’s official news agency Xinhua wrote on Sunday that the ‘central government will not sit idly by and let this situation continue. We firmly believe that Hong Kong will be able to overcome the difficulties and challenges ahead. ‘ Hong Kong has been allowed to retain extensive freedoms, such as an independent judiciary but many residents see the extradition bill as the latest step in a relentless march toward mainland control.
Months of demonstrations are taking a growing toll on the city’s economy, as local shoppers and tourists avoid parts of one of the world’s most famous shopping destinations. Matthew Wang, a 22-year-old marketing executive for a multinational corporation, said that the government was ‘encouraging people to become more radical to affect decision making because they are not addressing any of the demands.’
A second march today will try to end in a park near the Liaison Office, the department that represents China’s central government in Hong Kong. The office was pelted with eggs and painted two weeks earlier in a move that infuriated Beijing and got the continental warnings quickly escalating.
The last fortnight saw an increase in violence on both sides with police shooting rubber bullets and tear gas constantly to disperse ever more hostile projectile-throwing crowds. A group of followers from the government also attacked protesters, placing 45 individuals in hospital, many accusing the police of being too slow to react. Masked protesters in Tsim Sha Tsui smashed the car windows in a police car park and used a big slingshot to launch bricks at the construction.