Fresh protests rock Hong Kong as China's 70th anniversary approaches
HONG KONG – With China's 70th anniversary just around the corner, another explosive weekend of Hong Kong protests happened leading up to it. Protests are now into the 17th week, with no signs of abating.
Sunday, September 29, saw some of the most violent and relentless clashes seen to date. Another demonstration planned to begin from the suburb Causeway Bay began frantically, setting the tone for the day.
The Hong Kong police had earlier rejected the demonstration for approval, but as seen many times before, this didn't deter protesters from marching ahead. The police tried to act swiftly with dispersing Sunday's rally just as it started, but it evidently backfired.
The demonstrations evolved throughout the weekend. Friday, September 27, saw a warm rally at Edinburgh Place in Central, with thousands turning out to support the arrestees within the controversial San Uk Ling detention center.
The location was nearby the same on Saturday, September 28, this time with Tamar Park being the spot for thousands of Hongkongers gathering. The Chief Executive's Office, Legislative Council, and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) headquarters – all next to Tamar Park – were barricaded and manned by riot police. Things escalated inevitably, with water being used as the main defense weapon to hold back angry protesters.
On weekends, it is usual for demonstrations to take shape during the afternoon and eventually escalate in the evening. On Sunday, the police made an appearance early, and soon after fired tear gas. This was before 3 pm, and was the catalyst that set the tone for the day.
Hennessy Road links districts Causeway Bay and Wan Chai, and was now the main battleground. After protesters marched along Hennessy Road into Wan Chai, it was apparent there was tension in the air. Soon after, journalists on the ground witnessed barricaded roads, damaged MTR station exits, and mounting debris within the vicinity. This lured the Hong Kong police into action, holding up at bridges above and firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the protesters below.
During the crossfire, it was reported an Indonesian correspondent was hit by a bullet. To make matters worse, it was another shot in the eye of a female on the ground – the second time this has happened throughout these months of protests. The Eye4HK (Eye for Hong Kong) campaign became prominent throughout the summer after a nurse became victim of the same injury.
Retaliation was bubbling at the service, with protesters then using the Wan Chai Immigration Tower Bridge to take their turn, heaving Molotov petrol bombs toward the exiting police, who returned fire with more rubber bullets.
It seemed a huge game of cat and mouse at times. By the time gas masks and helmets were removed from protesters and press, something else sparked another melee. When the late evening came about, fires made streets of Hong Kong look like the city had been overthrown.
Things didn't stop there – fires were continually used as weapons, as heated barricades continued to pop up throughout. Water cannon trucks were soon deployed, followed by the police firing teargas with no hesitation.
As the day wore on, protester numbers never seemed to dwindle. If some groups had dispersed, others took their place. It was into Happy Valley area where small groups and police fought in hand-to-hand or "baton-to-umbrella" combat.
Plenty of these clashes had been seen for months in Hong Kong, but Sunday was evidently different. The initial attempt to disperse a large rally made the day what it was – violent and relentless. Without question, it marked one of the worst days of the ongoing protests.
Tuesday, October 1, will mark China's 70th anniversary party, with mass protests scheduled in Hong Kong. In fact, it has been built up as a type of "D-Day" by the locals and press on the ground. (READ: [OPINION] Hong Kong turmoil: What if China moves in?)
Originally it was thought it would be the day for the PLA to intervene, but that is unlikely given China's current economic stance in the world. However, it will, without question, bring a huge amount of significance moving forward. Security will be on high alert, while protesters have openly admitted that they are all "saving their energy" for this date.
Tuesday is a big deal to China, being their first anniversary as a world superpower. Beijing will hold one of the biggest celebrations the world has seen to date. Yet, in Hong Kong, it will be a day to pour oil onto the parade. – Rappler.com
Tommy Walker is a freelance travel journalist and correspondent. He has reported on events and stories relating to North Korea, Colombia, Venezuela, France, and Russia. He is based in Hong Kong.