Police officers burn tear gas during a protest in Hong Kong, China August 31, 2019 Reuters / Tyrone Siu
Tyrone Siu | Reuters
Protesters in Hong Kong threw gasoline bombs at a government headquarters and set fire to the streets on Saturday as police stormed a subway car and struck passengers with sticks and pepper spray in scenes that seemed to ignite the city for three months demonstrations for democracy.
Police refused a hike to commemorate the fifth anniversary of China's decision against fully democratic elections in Hong Kong, but protesters anyway took to the streets like they did all summer long. They provoked and thwarted the police repeatedly, but generally withdrew after riot officers moved in, avoiding some of the direct clashes that characterized earlier protests.
However, at night, a video from Hong Kong TVB showed police on Prince Edward's subway platform. the station was swinging sticks at passengers returning to one end of a train car behind the umbrellas. The video also shows a pepper spray firing through an open door into a group sitting on the floor while a man holds his hands.
It was not clear if all the passengers were protesting. Police said they entered the station to arrest offenders after protesters assaulted others and damaged property inside. TVB's video was widely shared on social media as another example of police brutality during protests. Angry mobs gathered in front of Prince Edward and near Mongcock Station, where police say they made the arrests after protesters vandalized a customer service center and damaged ticket machines.
In a statement released Sunday morning, Hong Kong police condemned "violent protests in multiple areas."
"With such escalating violence and progressively lethal weapons by protesters," the statement said, "police officers' safety and other members of the public are seriously threatened. Police strongly condemn such actions. "
Protests erupted in early June in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory of 7.4 million people. The bill extraditing China to the forefront complicates the question of what many in the city consider to be an erosion of the rights and freedoms that residents must have within a single country, two systems.
Mostly young, black protesters took over roads and large intersections in shopping districts on Saturday as they gathered and left without an obvious destination.
Authorities closed streets and subways near the Chinese government office and parked trucks with water cannons and erected additional barriers nearby, fearing protesters could head for the building. The office would be the end point of a hike the police did not allow.
Instead, a group of hardliners of protesters decided to take the police guarding the government headquarters behind large barriers ringing the building to keep the protesters at bay.
As others walked back and forth nearby, a large crowd gathered outside, wearing helmets and gas masks. They directed laser beams at the officers' heads and threw objects over and above the bulkhead. Police responded with tear gas and protesters threw gasoline bombs at the compound.
Water cannons turn people blue
Then came blue water. A water truck launches plain water, followed by repeated bursts of colored water, coloring protesters and close journalists, and leaving blue puddles on the street.
The standoff continued for some time, but protesters began to move backward as word spread that police were heading in their direction. Several frontline protesters threw gasoline bombs at formation officers, but there were no major clashes as police cleared the area.
Protesters regrouped and blocked a large shopping street, piling up barricades and setting fire. Smoke blew through the air as hundreds of protesters waited on the other side of the makeshift barrier, many pointing laser beams piercing the night sky above them.
The firefighters made their way into the crowded area on foot to extinguish the fire. Emergency police removed the barricades and moved quickly. It could be seen that several protesters were being detained, but by now most had left.
As police progressed east down Hennessy Road, protesters made another position in the Bay Cowway shopping district.
Protesters built another fire, smaller, in front of the department store in Sogo. Police waited behind the riot shields as firefighters extinguished the smoldering fire with fire extinguishers. When police moved in, the protesters withdrew again.
Other groups pass the Hong Kong port to Zim Sha Tsui, where police say they have set fire to Nathan Road's gas bombs.
Democratic lawmaker Lam Chowk-Ting said Hong Kong citizens will continue to fight for their rights and freedoms, despite the arrests of several prominent activists and lawmakers over the past two days, including activist Joshua Wong.
Protesters want full extradition of extradition bill
Protesters want complete withdrawal of extradition bill ̵
"I believe the government deliberately arrested several Democratic camp leaders for trying to threaten Hong Kong people not to come out against the evil law," Lam said in what was declared a Christian march earlier in Saturday.
For 1,000 people, they went to the Methodist church and police headquarters. They alternated between singing hymns and chanting slogans of the pro-democracy movement. An online flyer for the demonstration called it a "prayer for sinners" and presented images of a Christian cross and brought Hong Kong leader Kari Lam on board who proposed the extradition bill.
The Human Rights Civil Front, the organizer of the pro-Democratic marches, which drew on a million people this summer, canceled their campaign after failing to win police approval. Police said that although previous rallies began peacefully, they were increasingly violent.
The Permanent Legislative Committee of China decreed on 31 August 2014 that Hong Kong residents could elect their leader directly, but that candidates would have to be approved by a nomination committee. The decision failed to satisfy the defenders of democracy in Hong Kong and led to the fallen protests at a 79-day occupying central center, in which protesters camped on large streets in the financial district and other parts of the city.
– CNBC contributed to this report.