Police fired multiple volleys of tear gas outside the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay early on Sunday afternoon as thousands of anti-government protesters gathered to stage an unauthorised march against Beijing’s plans to impose national security laws in Hong Kong.
Many of the protesters scattered after the initial round of tear gas was fired soon after the rally started at around 1.00pm, though a large number of people remain spread out a wide area, with some smashing up traffic lights by Southorn Playground in Wanchai and setting up makeshift barricades on the streets.
Another group of at least 100 were marching down Wan Chai Road towards Admiralty, and some people have thrown objects onto Gloucester Road, blocking traffic.
Riot police quickly arrived, firing multiple rounds of pepper ball from their rifles at people. Officers were also seen using pepper spray to try to disperse the crowds.
The force later said in a statement that at least 40 protesters were arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly at Hung Hing Road nearby after apparently fleeing the scene.
The force’s water cannon truck was patrolling the area, along with a large number of riot police, who were seen questioning and searching a number of people. One man was asked to show his receipt, after apparently telling officers he was just shopping in the busy commercial area.
Police say a man – reportedly a member of the People Power group, Tam Tak-chi – was arrested on suspicion of organising a prohibited group gathering.
A number of others were also seen to be subdued in the area.
In a social media post, the force said officers used the “minimum necessary force”, including tear gas, to stop “the violent act of rioters”, after protesters reportedly threw umbrellas, water bottles and other objects at them.
Some journalists were pepper-sprayed as objects were thrown at the police. Some journalists said they were momentarily boxed in by groups of riot police at some points.
Hundreds of protesters had occupied Hennessy Road early in the afternoon, with many yelling abuse at police, along with slogans such as ‘Hong Kong independence’ and ‘liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times!”
Some held up banners saying ‘Heaven eradicate the Chinese Communist Party’.
There has been a huge international uproar after Beijing on Friday announced that it would directly introduce new national security legislation, bypassing the legislature here, to plug what it called ‘loopholes’ in current laws.
Mainland authorities have cited the ongoing protests, calls for independence, and foreign interference in local affairs as some of the reasons why it must step in – as Hong Kong has failed to fulfill its constitutional obligation to introduce its own national security legislation after an aborted attempt in 2003.
However, many foreign governments have spoken out against the move, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying it sounds the ‘death knell’ for the high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong.
The National People’s Congress is expected to formally adopt a resolution on the proposal at the end of the month, before details of the eventual legislation are drawn up.
Some protesters told RTHK they feel an obligation to come out to show their dissatisfaction.
“HongKongers need to stand for what we believe [in]”, one man said. “It’s important for us to stand up and show the world that we are not afraid of what’s happening. We will fight for what we believe, no matter what happens.”
Another woman said, “If my home [does not] have freedom, I will choose to die.”
The protesters had ignored multiple warnings from the authorities against any unauthorised gatherings, with officials stressing that the ban on public gatherings of any more than eight people remain in force amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The protest was also called against plans to introduce a national anthem bill, which would outlaw insults and any misuse of 'The March of the Volunteers'. The bill is set to resume its second reading in Legco on Wednesday.
Last updated: 2020-05-24 HKT 17:47
Police fire tear gas at Causeway Bay protesters
2020-05-24 HKT 13:01
Police fire tear gas at Causeway Bay protesters
Police fired tear gas near SOGO Department Store. Photo: RTHK
The police's water-cannon-equipped anti-riot vehicle patrolled the streets of Wan Chai as protesters spread out through the district. Photo: RTHK
In a repeat of familiar scenes during protests last year, protesters melted away as officers pushed forward, only to re-emerge to set up more road barricades nearby. Photo: RTHK
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