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Radio Free Asia

One Month After Ban, Masked Protesters Turn Out on Guy Fawkes Night in Hong Kong

2019-11-05 -- Hundreds of anti-government protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks inspired by the movie V for Vendetta took to the streets of Hong Kong on Tuesday to protest the use of emergency legislation to ban masks in public one month ago.

In a reference to the British marking on Nov. 5 of the foiled Gunpowder Plot by Guy Fawkes to blow up parliament, protesters marched to show ongoing public anger at the use of colonial-era emergency powers by the city's government to pass the ban by executive decree.

The protest came after students and other supporters staged rallies earlier in the day in support of two people left in critical condition after police used force to clear protests over the weekend.

Police fired tear gas at protesters who blocked roads in Tseung Kwan O district late on Tuesday night, after after a University of Science and Technology student was left with life-threatening injuries after a tear gas raid on a local residential estate.

Police fired tear gas in the streets near Kwong Ming and Sheung Tak estates, where their pursuit of protesters was said to have sparked the 22-year-old student's fall from an upper story at the weekend.

Social media posts showed video of police vehicles preventing an ambulance from reaching the student, and of a bloodied protester who took on a group of riot police with nothing but a backpack as a shield.

Tensions rose when first-aiders were prevented from helping the student, who has been identified only by his surname Chow.

Disproportionate use of force

Earlier, students at Shue Yan University gathered chanting "Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution in our time!" and "Hongkongers! Resist!" in a protest at police violence and abuse of power.

Many felt that the police use of force was disproportionate to the threat posed by protesters, many of whom are unarmed teenagers and local residents who wear regular clothing and typically respond to violence rather than starting it.

A student surnamed Yeung who attended the protest said: "I feel that this is one case showing the police using unreasonable force. This is very unwise because they are facing off against the whole population of Hong Kong."

"This student was only engaged in humanitarian relief work, so it's a kind of failure to allow humanitarian work, or even a sign that they are actively obstructing it," Yeung said.

Wong Kin-yuen, a professor in the English department of the college, said he supported the protests.

"I think lecturers should also take part in events like this that support an injured student," Wong told RFA. "Whether they do or not is a matter of conscience, and for one's own sense of personal responsibility."

Call for independent enquiry

Isaac Cheng, deputy leader of Demosisto, a political party founded by former student leaders of the 2014 pro-democracy movement, was also at the rally, and called for an independent investigation into police conduct since protests escalated in early June.

"Without an independent enquiry, then there will be no limit to police abuse of their powers," Cheng said. "Today's rally ... is about demanding accountability for police violence, and at least this college is prepared to stick its neck out to protect its students."

Police spokeswoman Suzette Foo said police had detonated 44 cylinders of tear gas and fired 11 rubber bullets and four textile bullets during the weekend's protest.

She said police had chased the protesters into the housing estate where Chow fell because they were being pelted with "hard objects."

Foo said police were unaware that Chow had been injured, which was why the paramedics weren't allowed through until later.

"Police only realized what had happened when they went up to the second floor of the carpark and saw the firefighters and volunteers," she said. "The police did not affect or interfere in any rescue work, nor did they drive away the ambulance personnel."

A former high-school classmate of Chow's surnamed Lai who went to the hospital to show support said the mood among those who knew him was of shock and immense grief.

"I came to show my concern and to find out how my fellow student is doing," Lai said.

A fellow student surnamed Lo said he was there for similar reasons. "I am very worried, and I wanted to come along and see what was happening."

Reported by Lau Siu-fung and Man Hoi-tsan for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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