Tear gas, clashes return to Mong Kok streets - RTHK
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Tear gas, clashes return to Mong Kok streets

2020-02-29 HKT 19:48
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  • Tear gas, clashes return to Mong Kok streets
  • Flowers and posters have been erected outside the Prince Edward station to mark August 31 incident when police stormed the trains. Photo: RTHK
    Flowers and posters have been erected outside the Prince Edward station to mark August 31 incident when police stormed the trains. Photo: RTHK
Police fired tear gas to disperse a large group of protesters who had gathered outside the Prince Edward MTR station to mark six months since the police storming of the station which has now become one of the most controversial events linked to the anti-government agitation which started last year.

Online messages had called for a rally to mark the incident on August 31 as Saturday marks the last day of this month.

Tensions flared quickly after police warned the crowd it was an illegal assembly and protesters responded with defiant slogans.

As the number of protesters swelled, the crowd started occupying sections of the road while make-shift barricades also soon appeared. Some reports also spoke of petrol bombs being thrown.

Police then shot several rounds of tear gas to clear the crowd, bringing back visions of what used to be regular weekend scenes just a few weeks back.

The coronavirus outbreak that started on the mainland and its appearance in the city had created a lull in clashes between police and anti-government protesters in the last few weeks.

The protests that erupted in the summer of last year over the government's plan to amend the extradition laws soon morphed into a wider pro-democracy movement that also wanted an independent probe into police actions.

The protest news grabbed the headlines again, displacing virus-related events, after prominent pro-democracy figures Jimmy Lai, Lee Cheuk-yan and Yeung Sum were arrested on Friday for their part in the August 31 march that culminated in the incident at Prince Edward MTR Station.

On Saturday, groups of people had gathered outside Exit B of Prince Edward Station where make-shift shrines had sprung up time and again as anti-government protesters placed flowers and burned joss sticks to pay their respects to those who were injured during last year's police storming.

A group of police officers then came out of Mong Kok police station adjacent to the MTR exit and removed flowers and stickers placed there by some people.

Police also used a loudspeaker from inside the station to warn people to stop inciting others to create public disorder and warned such people could get arrested.

They also said anyone who left flowers or placards in that area could be charged with littering and fined up to HK$1,500. But the announcements were met with defiant slogans from the crowd.

When riot police officers stormed the station on August 31, they dispersed media and first-aid workers from the area as they carried out their operation.

Police said later seven people were injured but protesters dispute this.

As the media were removed from the scene, there was no independent verification of the police claims, leading to rumours of fatalities which police, the fire services and other authorities have repeatedly denied.

The rail company shut the B1 exit on Nathan Road the next day, saying the facilities there had been seriously damaged by protesters. The sealed exit then became a makeshift shrine for protesters who brought flowers and burnt joss sticks to mourn alleged victims.

Last updated: 2020-02-29 HKT 20:45