Police officers in Hong Kong have hurled teargas and swung batons at protesters who defied their order not to protest on the streets of Yuen Long in the latest march in a summer of protest for the semi-autonomous Chinese region.
Carrying umbrellas, a symbol calling back to the Occupy protests of 2014 that many also used to knock back canisters of teargas and hide the identities of those marching from CCTV, thousands of protesters walked through the area chanting “Hong Kong police know the law and break the law.”
The march took place in the northwest of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory where, six days earlier, a mob of triad gang members and villagers attacked protesters in what appeared to be a targeted assault against those pushing for greater democracy in the region.
Dressed in white in an apparent move to make themselves distinct from the black clothes that have become an unofficial uniform of protesters, the gang assaulted dozens of people with canes as they headed home from a mass protest last Sunday night.
A 24-year-old, who only gave his surname, Man, said: “After the violence [last Sunday], as a resident of Yuen Long, I think I have the responsibility to come out. After all these protests in past months, the government still hasn’t responded to us.”
The authorities did not approve the latest march due to concerns of clashes between protesters and locals, and met activist with force less than three hours after it began – firing teargas on the crowd in an attempt to force them to disperse.
However the marchers stood their ground. Officers said later in a statement that protesters had ignored their appeals to leave the area and were “holding iron poles, self-made shields and even removing fences from roads”.
The statement added that the lives of officers were endangered by protesters who had surrounded and vandalised an occupied police vehicle.
As the protest spread into the evening and some marchers dispersed, officers in riot gear squared up to activists who held up wooden sheets as shields.
Footage from the scene showed protesters pushing the police back through the streets by throwing umbrellas and shaking poles; however officers armed with batons and a sign that read “Stop charging or we use force” were soon deployed – and went on to knock at least one woman to the ground as they crashed into the activists.
The summer of unrest began on 31 March in the first of a series of demonstrations against a bill proposed by the Hong Kong government that would make it easier for people to be handed over to the mainland Chinese government.
The bill has since been described as “dead” by Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam – however protests have continued as residents push for wide-sweeping change including the outright removal of the bill, the resignation of Lam and the introduction of a pure democratic system that distances the city from China.
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