The police attempt to disperse masked protesters after the illegal protest turns radical and violent in late night on Saturday. (Photo/China Daily)
Traffic paralyzed as thousands march, chanting anti-government slogans
The heart of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region descended into chaos with business partially suspended and traffic entirely paralyzed on Sunday afternoon after masked protesters launched an unauthorized assembly.
Thousands gathered in the assembly on Hong Kong Island on Sunday, targeting several locations, including Hong Kong's Golden Bauhinia Square flag-raising venue in Wan Chai, the day after an illegal rally turned violent in the city's western part of New Territories Yuen Long.
The protesters, wearing face masks, defaced property, left graffiti and dismantled metal sidewalk railings along their way in Sai Ying Pun, Sheung Wan, Central and Causeway Bay, the heart of Hong Kong Island, despite continuous police warnings.
China Daily reporters taking photos at the scene were warned repeatedly and followed by several masked protesters. One used an umbrella to try to stop reporters from taking pictures.
At about 3:40 pm, thousands of people gathered at Chater Garden, heart of Hong Kong's financial and administrative district, and occupied a major road in a procession toward Wan Chai. Traffic was paralyzed.
Another group of protesters headed toward Sheung Wan. Some shouted that their target was the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in Sai Wan. A few headed to Sogo, a major shopping mall in Causeway Bay.
The police stressed that anyone participating in the unauthorized procession was breaking the law and no violence would be tolerated during the event.
Senior Superintendent of Police Public Relations Branch Yu Hoikwan said in a news briefing at Police Headquarters that the public was urged to take part in the Chater Garden assembly in a peaceful and lawful manner.
Violent clashes against police that endangered public safety, like those in Yuen Long on Saturday, would not be tolerated, Yu said.
A similar procession was held on Saturday night in Yuen Long. That illegal march, which was banned by the police out of safety concerns, ended with a bloody and violent clash between some radical protesters and police officers.
In a statement on Sunday, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government strongly condemned protesters for disturbing the peace and deliberately breaking the law, saying the police would take "serious follow-up actions".
The police also condemned deliberate attacks by violent protesters in a statement on Sunday, stressing they would investigate all illegal and violent acts.
Joining the condemnation were 39 Hong Kong lawmakers of the pro-establishment camp. In a joint statement on Sunday, they expressed their "strong discontent" with rioters and repeated that they opposed all violent and illegal acts.
Also on Sunday, Hong Kong's Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po wrote in his weekly blog that recent violent protests have worried all who are concerned about Hong Kong.
He called on the public to firmly reject violence. "Don't let hate and violence take root in and spread over the society."
During the nearly seven hours of Yuen Long protest conflicts on Saturday, some radical protesters violently charged police cordons, damaged a police vehicle and blocked roads. They hurled bricks, threw glass bottles containing suspected-corrosive fluids and smoke-producing materials at police trying to disperse them.
Twenty-four people were injured during the incident, including at least four police officers. At least thirteen men were arrested on charges including unlawful assembly, possession of an offensive weapon, assaulting a police officer and assault.
On Sunday morning, piles of trash could be seen everywhere near Nam Pin Wai village in Yuen Long. Bricks, bottles, broken umbrellas, damaged fences and graffiti littered the scene of the previous day's rally.
Also on Sunday, the central government's foreign affairs office in the HKSAR sternly denounced a United States congressman for "telling bare-faced lies" and "slinging mud against conscience".
The Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region responded after US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel issued a statement on Friday criticizing the Hong Kong police's handling of recent anti-extradition bill protests.
By around 8 pm on Sunday, the protesters were dispersed from the Sai Ying Pun area. Train service for Sai Ying Pun, HKU and Kennedy Town stations was temporarily suspended around the same time. Shortly after that, police were seen detaining some protesters.
At around 8:30 pm, the police issued a statement condemning the protesters for escalating violence.