After two days of peaceful demonstrations across the Hong Kong region, the streets in the Kowloon Bay district erupted into heated confrontations between protesters and riot police in several areas, on Saturday, Aug. 24.
Protesters had planned a march in the industrial city of Kwun Tong, on Saturday, overcoming temperatures of 93-degrees Fahrenheit by passing out water and tea to the marchers. However, as the demonstrations progressed, protesters became increasingly agitated.
Some threw rocks and attacked lamp posts that had mounted security cameras, asserting that the cameras were part of a high-tech surveillance system. Others wielded sticks and baseball bats as they confronted riot police in the streets.
Tear gas filled the air near a shopping mall as groups of dozens of protesters, equipped with hard hats and gas masks, tried to stand their ground, some standing behind make-shift barricades.
Just two days ago, protests in Hong Kong were surprisingly peaceful. On Thursday, tens of thousands stood side-by-side, linking together by holding hands to form a “human chain,” in remembrance of a similar protest in the Baltic states of Soviet-occupied Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Thursday’s protest remained free of any reported incidents of violence or clashes with police, as the protesters merely stood in silence or sang songs.
This weekend’s protests were a return to the violent confrontations that resulted in the closing of Hong Kong’s international airport for two days, less than two weeks ago. In those protests, police fired rubber bullets and beanbags, causing injuries, including a serious eye injury to at least one protester. Subway lines in and around the city were filled with tear gas fumes, as police have tried to limit the flow of protesters to the airport and the city’s center.
The turmoil has reportedly started to affect Hong Kong’s economy, especially tourism. International airlines, including Untied Airlines, are reducing service to Hong Kong due to weakened demand, as passengers seek to avoid being exposed to violence in and around the airport that could erupt again at any time. A number of businesses have also begun making plans to leave the city in the near future.
Hong Kong’s turmoil only adds to political and economic pressure on China, as it contends with the United States in trade negotiations.
Pro-democracy demonstrations continue into their third month
Hong Kong’s citywide protests, which began June 9 and originally arose in response to a proposed extradition agreement with China, are now being characterized more broadly as “pro-democracy” demonstrations, by both the Hong Kong demonstrators and by Chinese authorities in Beijing.
China’s communist government has recently begun to compare the protesters in Hong Kong to “terrorists” and blamed them for inciting violence. Thousands of Chinese military troops have begun conducting riot-control drills in nearby Shenzhen, just hours away from the center of Hong Kong, should they be called upon to intervene. However, it remains unclear whether Beijing would deploy military troops in the Special Administrative Region, or whether the moves are an attempt on the part of China’s government to intimidate the protesters.