HONG KONG: Police fired tear gas and pepper spray at protesters in Tsim Sha Tsui on Sunday (Dec 1) afternoon after thousands took to the streets to “show gratitude” for US support of the protests that have roiled the city for nearly six months.
The protest in the bustling shopping district came after hundreds of people had marched to the US consulate.
Waving posters that read “Never forget why you started” and black flags with the logo “Revolution now”, protesters marched past the city’s Kowloon waterfront, home to luxury hotels and shopping malls.
Shops and businesses in the area shuttered early as police shot volleys of tear gas at protesters as they marched past the city’s Kowloon waterfront, home to luxury hotels and shopping malls.
Police made several arrests as the tear gas sent hundreds fleeing towards the harbour.
“At around 5pm, hundreds of rioters hurled smoke bombs near Empire Centre, Tsim Sha Tsui, stirring up public fear and causing chaos,” police said in a statement.
“In the face of the situation, police officers had no other alternatives but deployed the minimum necessary force, including tear gas, to stop illegal acts.”
At about 8.45pm, protesters moved to the Whampoa area, setting up barricades across Hung Hom Road and Tak Man Street. Police said officers would conduct “dispersal and arrest action”.
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There has been relative calm in Hong Kong for the past week since local elections last Sunday delivered an overwhelming victory to pro-democracy candidates.
Activists pledged, however, to maintain the momentum of the anti-government movement that has seen protests roil the former British colony since June, at times forcing government offices, businesses, schools and even the international airport to shut.
“We had demonstrations, peaceful protests, lobbying inside the council, a lot of things we have done but they all failed,” said Felix, a 25-year-old university graduate.
“There are still five demands,” he said, referring to protesters’ calls that include an independent inquiry into police behaviour and the implementation of universal suffrage.
Some protesters, equipped with gas masks, built barricades and blocked roads near luxury stores, including Armani, while others headed towards Hung Hom, a district near the ruined campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
The campus turned into a battleground in mid-November when protesters barricaded themselves in and faced off riot police in violent clashes of petrol bombs, water cannon and tear gas.
About 1,100 people were arrested last week, some while trying to escape.
The main rally on Sunday in Tsim Sha Tsui dispersed as night fell but some protesters moved to other parts of the city, setting up the possibility of clashes later in the evening.
On Friday, police withdrew from the university after collecting evidence and removing dangerous items including thousands of petrol bombs, arrows and chemicals that had been strewn around the site.
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THANK YOU TRUMP
Earlier in the day, hundreds of protesters waved American flags, with some donning Donald Trump logo hats and t-shirts, as they unfurled a banner depicting the US president standing astride a tank with a US flag behind him.
Another banner read: “President Trump, please liberate Hong Kong.”
Trump this week signed into law congressional legislation that supported protesters in the city despite angry objections from Beijing.
“Thank you President Trump for your big gift to Hong Kong and God bless America,” shouted a speaker holding a microphone as he addressed a crowd at the start of the march.
On Sunday morning, hundreds of protesters, including many families with children, marched in protest against police use of tear gas.
Carrying yellow balloons and waving banners that read “No tear gas, save our children”, the protesters streamed through the city’s central business district towards government headquarters on the main Hong Kong island.
There has been relative calm in Hong Kong for the past week but activists have pledged to maintain the momentum of the movement with three marches planned for Sunday. All have been approved by authorities.
Anti-government protests have rocked the former British colony since June, at times forcing government offices, businesses, schools and even the international airport to shut.
“We want the police to stop using tear gas,” said a woman surnamed Wong, who marched with her husband and five year old son.
“It’s not a good way to solve the problem. The government needs to listen to the people. It is ridiculous.”
Police have fired around 10,000 rounds of tear gas since June, the city’s Secretary for Security, John Lee, said this week.
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Sunday’s marches came as a top Hong Kong official said the government was looking into setting up an independent committee to review the handling of the crisis, in which demonstrations have become increasingly violent.
The protesters in Hong Kong are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
China denies interfering and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula put in place at that time and has blamed foreign forces for fomenting unrest.
Further protests are planned through the week and a big test of support for the anti-government campaign is expected on Dec 8 with a rally planned by Civil Human Rights Front, the group that organised million-strong marches in June.
MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests
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