Rioters took advantage of a protest to wreak havoc again in Hong Kong on New Year's Day, trashing an HSBC branch, setting fire on streets, and spray-painting insulting words on the outer wall of the High Court.
At about 3:50 p.m. local time, a group of masked rioters smashed the glass door and damaged automated teller machines (ATMs) of a branch of HSBC bank on the Hennessy Road during a demonstration on the Hong Kong Island Wednesday afternoon.
Violent protesters also poured red paint over a lion sculpture in front of the HSBC Headquarters in Central district. Some spray-painted the protective white planks at the entrance of an HSBC branch in the vicinity of Victoria Park.
It was not the first time for Hong Kong's largest bank to be targeted by rioters. An HSBC branch in Mong Kok was trashed on the Christmas Eve.
Some other businesses also fell victim to the violence on Wednesday. The glass door of a China Life Insurance building was destroyed, and a Bank of China branch was also vandalized. A Starbucks cafe was trashed and set on fire, and an outlet of Hui's Brothers Currency Exchange was painted with graffiti.
According to the plan filed with the police, protesters first gathered at Victoria Park at noon before marching toward Chater Road as the destination. However, after the demonstration ended at about 5:30 p.m., some rioters still occupied the streets.
At about 5:00 p.m. local time, rioters hurled petrol bombs at Luard Road and Hennessy Road, posing a grave threat to public safety. At about 6 p.m. local time, rioters set road barricades with debris and damaged the traffic lights in the vicinity of Des Voeux Road Central and Pedder Street.
Violence showed no signs of abating in the evening as rioters vandalized public facilities in Causeway Bay, Wan Chai and Central, with roads blocked and pavements destroyed. Some even set fire to banks and ATMs.
As warnings went in vain, the police had to deploy the minimum necessary force, including tear gas and the Specialized Crowd Management Vehicle to disperse protesters. Five people involved in the vandalism of the HSBC branch were arrested for criminal damage.
As one of the most stunning incidents on Wednesday, some rioters spray-painted words on the outer wall of the High Court to insult a judge.
The police strongly condemned such an unlawful act which defies the spirit of the law and clarified the case as "criminal damage". The Department of Justice of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government said personal attacks and insults against judges would severely undermine the authority of the courts and damage public confidence in the judicial system.
A spokesperson of the HKSAR government called on participants in the procession to leave as soon as possible after arriving at the finishing point of the protest and not to participate in illegal and violent activities.
The government has all along respected people's rights and freedoms to participate in peaceful processions and assemblies and express views rationally, the spokesperson said.