Tear gas fired in downtown Hong Kong as protesters defy police
By NATALIE LUNG | Bloomberg News | Published: November 2, 2019
HONG KONG (Tribune News Service) — Hong Kong police fired multiple rounds of tear gas at protesters who rallied for a 22nd consecutive weekend despite authorities denying them a permit to gather.
Police arrested dozens, and deployed a water cannon on black-clad demonstrators who had built barricades and threw fire-lit objects in Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island. Arsonists set alight an exit of a subway stop, forcing operator MTR Corp. to suspend services at Central station.
Others threw petrol bombs outside Cheung Kong Center – the nerve center of billionaire Li Ka-Shing's business empire – and vandalized the offices of China's official Xinhua News Agency, according to the South China Morning Post. Companies including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. have offices in Cheung Kong Center.
Hong Kong's economy entered a recession in the third quarter as increasingly violent protests hurt local businesses. Tourism has plummeted across the board, especially arrivals from mainland China, which accounts for almost 80% of all visitors to the city.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Saturday the recent unrest has "inevitably affected the confidence of local and overseas sectors" toward the city, but its "unique edge" is unharmed under the "One Country, Two Systems" principle.
"Hong Kong can surely start anew through strict law enforcement, sincere conversation and return to calm," Lam told a conference in Nanjing, China.
Earlier on Saturday, thousands gathered in the vicinity of Victoria Park as pro-democracy candidates for upcoming district council elections held campaign events. Tension built up as police repeatedly issued warnings to protesters that they were participating in an unauthorized assembly and violating a ban on face masks.
Victoria Park, near the shopping district of Causeway Bay, was the venue for several peaceful rallies in recent months, and hosts the city's annual June 4th commemoration of China's 1989 crackdown on democracy activists in Tiananmen Square.
Saturday's demonstrations follows a chaotic Halloween of revelry and protests, where tear gas rounds were fired to disperse costume-wearing demonstrators. Authorities are trying to gain greater control over the unrest that has gripped the city for almost five months.
Hong Kong's High Court on Thursday granted the local government its second injunction in a week limiting online speech – the latest was a 15-day ban on internet posts that incite violence or property damage.
As protests rage in Hong Kong against China's increased grip over the city, Beijing signaled it would intervene more in everything from education to the selection of the city's top leader.
The Chinese government on Friday outlined a series of broad, but vaguely worded commitments to address some of Hong Kong's most divisive issues, including a pledge to "improve the system and mechanisms for appointing and removing the chief executive and other principle officials."
Communist Party leaders also vowed stronger measures to teach "patriotism" to young people and public officials, according to a communique released by the Central Committee after their first meeting in more than 20 months.
"There may be more control of freedom of speech after the plenary session," a 20-year-old protester who would only be identified as Cheung, said Saturday.
With assistance by Shawna Kwan, Justin Chin, and Karthikeyan Sundaram
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