Violence Erupts on 12th Weekend of Hong Kong Protests
By VOA News August 25, 2019
Hong Kong police drew their guns, fired tear gas and, for the first time, water cannons at anti-government protesters on Sunday in the 12th weekend of demonstrations.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets, some of them throwing bricks at police, attacking them with sticks and rods and spraying detergent on streets to make it slippery for police. Some of the demonstrators, many in masks and wearing black, broke store windows and hurled tear gas canisters back at police.
Early Monday, police said one officer fell to the ground as protesters hurled objects at police, prompting six officers to withdraw their guns. One officer fired a warning shot skyward, the statement said.
It was the first time any live rounds had been fired since the protests began three months ago.
The vast majority of protesters marched peacefully, but police at times fired bursts of tear gas at wildcat demonstrators who broke away from the largest groups. Some protesters tossed bamboo poles on the street and lined up traffic barriers and cones to obstruct police.
The protests in the major Asian finance center are the biggest threat to peace there since Britain handed over control of Hong Kong to China in 1997. The protesters say they demonstrating against what they see as an erosion of rights under the "one country, two systems" arrangement under which Beijing assumed control of the territory.
Some demonstrators say they have resorted to violent tactics because the government has not responded to their demands. The weeks-long demonstrations in Hong Kong began with calls to stop an extradition bill, which has now been scrapped, but have now expanded to include demands for full democracy.
On Saturday, the protests had turned violent for the first time in nearly two weeks, as hundreds of demonstrators dressed in black and armed with baseball bats and bamboo poles hurled petrol bombs and bricks at police.
Hong Kong police brandished batons and fired volleys of tear gas to disperse the protesters, who had set up makeshift street barricades using bamboo scaffolding outside a police station and a nearby shopping mall.
Meanwhile, China freed a British consulate worker, Simon Cheng, whose detention served to ratchet up tensions. He was detained for 15 days in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, for allegedly violating public security management regulations, according to police there.
Authorities say Cheng's legal rights were upheld, claiming he had confessed to the charges for which he was held. This is a standard rejoinder from Chinese police, despite the fact Cheng was not given a chance to defend himself in court. Cheng's family said on Facebook he had now returned to Hong Kong.
Protesters had been demanding his release for the past several days, and Britain said it welcomed the news.
As the rallies entered their third month, protesters also cut down a "smart lamppost" because they feared it was being used for surveillance by Chinese authorities.
Hong Kong's government maintained, however, the lamppost only collected data on traffic, weather and air quality.
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