Thousands of pro-democracy protesters hit the streets of Hong Kong for a tenth weekend in-a-row Sunday, again defying police who fired volleys of tear gas at several locations.
The protests followed a night of “hit-and-run” rallies across the city and came after Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam insisted she would not meet the demands of demonstrators.
Early Sunday afternoon, thousands of protesters met in the city’s Victoria Park, braving hot and humid conditions and a police ban on the gathering.
“The police should try their best to maintain public security instead of rejecting our request to march,” said a 25-year-old protester who gave only her family name, Wong. “We’re still here… We won’t worry that much about illegal assembly. We still have our rights,” she told AFP.
Police also denied the protesters a permit for a second rally in the city’s working-class Sham Shui Po neighborhood. But the pro-democracy activists whose protests are now in their third month defied authorities in both locations and staged additional actions in several other parts of the city.
In Sham Shui Po they used metal fencing and plastic ties to construct makeshift barricades and block the road near the local police station, shining blue lasers at the building as officers held up a flag warning the crowd to disperse.
A woman ran across the stretch of the no-man’s land between the two sides, clutching an orange shopping bag as she tried to get avoid the confrontation.
Protests in Hong Kong have been going on for nine weeks. Our latest visual investigation is an explainer that breaks down the innovative tactics demonstrators are using to organize. https://t.co/vNhUVlunXQ pic.twitter.com/kNi6vYKjPa
— Haley Willis (@heytherehaIey) August 10, 2019
‘Reclaim Hong Kong’
Shortly after, protesters threw bricks and police began firing tear gas.
Other demonstrators blocked roads in Wan Chai, where police headquarters is located, and the Causeway Bay shopping district, chanting “reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our times”.
Elsewhere scuffles broke out between pro-Beijing residents and unidentified bystanders as well as media, with police intervening in some cases to pull people apart.
Sunday’s protests come after a night of cat-and-mouse demonstrations around the city, with protesters taking their mantra of flexible action — “Be Water” — to new heights.
And while riot police fired tear gas and arrested 16 people, the two sides avoided the lengthy pitched battles that have been seen in recent weeks.
“Our aim is no injuries, no bleeding and not getting arrested,” said a 17-year-old student protester who gave his family name as Chan.
“I think our previous tactics of staying in one place led to many arrests and injuries… We need to ‘be water’ to avoid injuries,” he told AFP at the Victoria Park gathering on Sunday.
VIDEO: Tear gas is deployed once again as thousands of pro-democracy protesters hit the streets of Hong Kong for the 10th weekend in a row, once again defying police after a night of "hit-and-run" rallies across the city pic.twitter.com/12NKTsiSim
— AFP news agency (@AFP) August 11, 2019
Protesters were also on their third and final day of a sit-in at the city’s airport that was billed as way to explain their movement to sometimes bemused arriving visitors.
The demonstrations that began more than two months ago in opposition to a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China have morphed into a broader bid to reverse a slide in democratic freedoms in the city.
The movement has been seen as the biggest threat to Beijing’s rule of the semi-autonomous Chinese city since its handover from the British in 1997.
And protesters insist they have no plans to back down.
“There is no chance of retreating, and as a Hong Konger, this is the last hope we see of being able to achieve democracy,” said a 20-year-old protester who gave his last name as Lam.
“We still love Hong Kong and we think Hong Kong still has a chance of obtaining a democratic system.”
The city’s Beijing-appointed leader Lam has ruled out granting the protesters’ demands, which include a full withdrawal of the now-suspended extradition bill, direct election of the city’s leader and an investigation into police violence.
On Saturday, she addressed students at Hong Kong army cadets camp and warned that the city was “suffering from external worries and internal perils”.
“Every person who cherishes Hong Kong and loves peace should work hard together and safeguard our beautiful home.”