Brewing unrest in Hong Kong turned violent, with police deploying tear gas grenades to keep back crowds of protesters who tried to go on the offensive, forcing the riot squad to retreat at times. Some 120 people had been arrested.
Turmoil resumed in the former British colony shortly after the Chinese government rolled out plans to adopt laws bolstering security and public order in the semi-autonomous territory. This Sunday, crowds of Hong Kongers flocked to the streets, with some violently pushing back against police, and chanting anti-government slogans.
Videos and photos posted online showed crowds of protesters marching across the busy districts of Causeway Bay and Wan Chai.
Anti-government protesters effectively blocked traffic in downtown Hong Kong © REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Some of the demonstrators were seen waving US flags, while others could be heard cursing at police and chanting “Hong Kong independence – the only way!” the South China Morning Post reported.
Some districts across the city-state of 7.4 million people turned into protest hotspots, with rioters there quickly outnumbering police and forcing officers to back off.
The demonstrators set up road blocks and hurled umbrellas (which have become a symbol of the Hong Kong protests), water bottles and other foreign objects at law enforcers.
Officers had to use non-lethal ammunition, firing volleys of tear gas at the advancing protesters. Streets and alleyways were engulfed in smoke from the gas projectiles. The police said that some 120 people had been arrested.
The draft legislation in question seeks to “prevent, frustrate and punish” threats to national security in Hong Kong, and outlaws acts of terrorism, secession and subversion. Local activists argue that the new laws could erode freedoms in the city, while foreign pundits predict they will spell the end of China’s “one country, two systems” policy – a claim dismissed by Beijing.
State Councilor Wang Yi said on Sunday that the draft bill would have no impact on Hong Kongers’ rights and liberties, nor would it affect the operations of foreign companies.
Meanwhile, US lawmakers moved to impose sanctions on Chinese officials complicit in “violating Hong Kong’s independence.” Last year, Washington unveiled a law, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which requires the State Department to annually audit Hong Kong’s level of “autonomy.”