Police, govt condemn violence in Sunday Hong Kong protests
Protesters deluged with water cannon during a demonstration near Hong Kong’s Central Government Complex on Sunday. Police are blaming ‘radical protesters’ for the violence. [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]
Hong Kong‘s government reiterated that violence was not the solution after protesters defied a police ban to march on Sunday in a rally that descended into chaos, as police fired tear gas and water cannons and demonstrators lobbed petrol bombs and set fires.
The government in a statement late on Sunday said violence would only harm the community, insisting it was trying to solve the territory’s problems.
Thousands of people, black-clad masked protesters alongside families with children, marched peacefully for two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the Causeway Bay shopping district to the central business district, calling for democratic reform.
Police had rejected the organisers’ request for a permit, but the demonstrators were undeterred.
Some protesters later burned Chinese flags and vandalised metro stations.
Hong Kong protests: Police use tear gas on demonstrators
Hundreds of them targeted the government office complex, throwing bricks and petrol bombs through police barriers. Police responded by firing volleys of tear gas and spraying protesters with chemical-laced water as well as a blue liquid that helps them identify offenders.
Protesters retreated, but regrouped in cat-and-mouse battles that lasted a few hours before calm returned.
Police issued a statement on Monday expressing “severe condemnation” over the unrest.
Around 20 “radical protesters” had attacked two police officers on Sunday evening, hurling petrol bombs, bricks, and threatening the safety of the officers, the statement said.
The anti-government protests started in June, sparked by an extradition bill many Hong Kong residents see as an example of the territory’s autonomy being eroded under the rule of mainland China, but they have become increasingly marked by violence and clashes with police.
Although the government this month decided to withdraw the bill, protesters demands have expanded over the last few weeks to include greater democracy and police accountability. Some demonstrators argue violence is necessary because peaceful demonstrations have done little to effect change.
At least 18 people were injured, three of them seriously, during Sunday’s violence, according to the Hospital Authority.
More than 1,300 people have been arrested since the disturbances began.
The unrest has battered Hong Kong’s economy, and is also seen as an embarrassment to Beijing, which has accused foreign powers of fomenting the unrest.