Hong Kong Protesters Defy Beijing Warnings, as Police Fire Tear Gas

HONG KONG — Defying warnings from China of a crackdown if they continued more than two months of protests, young demonstrators blocked a vital tunnel under Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor on Saturday, barricaded a traffic intersection and set fires outside a police station in a shopping district popular with tourists.

The Hong Kong police force said in a statement that the fires in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of the city posed “a serious threat to the safety of everyone at the scene.”

Police officers fired tear gas in several locations as a day that began with a show of peaceful defiance outside the headquarters of China’s military garrison descended into an evening of clashes, panic and widespread disruption.

Thousands of activists continued a sit-in at Hong Kong’s international airport, one of the world’s busiest air-travel hubs, on the second day of what they said would be a three-day occupation. The airport demonstration, unlike scattered and often-chaotic protests on the Kowloon Peninsula on Saturday evening, has so far been peaceful.

Stores along Nathan Road, normally crowded with evening shoppers and tourists, closed their doors as the police moved into the area, charging into passers-by caught up in a melee that was shrouded in clouds of tear gas.

Amy Havart, a 32-year-old Hong Kong resident, said she had been leaving a hotel on Nathan Road after drinks with friends when hotel staff members “told us that the police are dropping tear gas outside; we don’t know what is happening at all.”

She said she could not see any protesters or acts of violence so could not understand why there were so many police officers.

That protest march in Central District, billed by organizers as a “family friendly” event, featured parents, baby strollers and children with balloons, and avoided incendiary slogans about “retaking Hong Kong” that have angered China’s governing Communist Party.

“Xi Jinping should come and take a look at us here, now, and then say whether we are hooligans,” said Ina Wong, a 34-year-old designer, referring to China’s hard-line leader. Ms. Wong took part in the rally along with her husband, a civil servant, and their 2-year-old son.

But the mood turned grimmer as darkness fell and the Kowloon Peninsula, across Victoria Harbor, became the focus for a new round of protests, which, unlike the morning rally in Central, had not been authorized by the police.

Watched by a lone Chinese soldier with an assault rifle guarding the gate to China’s military compound in Central, the morning protesters marched without incident past the garrison, shouting, “Go Hong Kong! Go Hong Kong! Fathers and mothers please preserve our future!”

They ended their parade outside the offices of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, a body that helped to spur the protest movement by moving in June to adopt legislation that would allow extradition to mainland China. Mrs. Lam, the chief executive, has since suspended the bill, but she has resisted demands that it be formally withdrawn.

Many in Hong Kong are not willing to accept Mrs. Lam’s assurances that the bill is “dead.”

“People don’t trust the government. This is the main problem,” said Ken Lin, an unemployed 39-year-old office worker who helped organize the Saturday march. “The government only obeys Beijing, not what the people of Hong Kong want.”

Sahred From Source link World News

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