Tensions simmer as demands pressed

Top News | Cindy Wan and Angel Kwan 2 Dec 2019

Police fired tear gas and pepper spray as some 380,000 people took to the streets in Kowloon yesterday after a week of relative peace following the district council election.

Police said some 16,000 people took part in the rally.

The march from the Bell Tower in Tsim Sha Tsui to Hong Kong Coliseum in Hung Hom - with the theme "Never forget why you started" - secured a police permit along with two others in Central.

Although the pro-democracy camp scored a landslide victory in the election, the organizer of yesterday's march asked people to focus on the five demands of the protests now in its 27th week.

The march set off an hour early from its 4pm start as crowds began gathering in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Civil Human Rights Front convener Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit and the League of Social Democrats' "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung and Avery Ng Man-yuen led the rally as police officers in the front tried to keep protesters in line.

While protesters were supposed to stay on pedestrian pavements, they quickly spilled on to Nathan Road which was not the approved route. Police called the organizer at 4pm, asking that the march be called off. But more people came to Tsim Sha Tsui.

A 22-year-old woman named Lai said she does not trust district councillors could help them achieve the five demands but she voted for the pan-democrats simply because she wanted the pro-government camp to lose.

She went to the protest "because I want the government to know we will not cut ties with the protesters, even if they are radical and violent."

She added: "If supporting violence is wrong, the police are the worst wrongdoers."

Tension escalated when protesters attempted to deviate from the original route to march north on Nathan Road at its junction with Salisbury Road at 3.55pm. But they encountered riot police at the junction, where a cordon line met protesters' umbrella front.

The standoff ended with protesters retreating and police charging to cut off the crowd on Salisbury Road at 4.55pm, and at least two shots of tear gas and pepper ball rounds were deployed. An elderly ice cream hawker nearby was swamped by tear gas.

Some 30 people fled to Middle Road outside exit K of the MTR Tsim Sha Tsui station and encountered a dozen riot police.

They were warned to leave or tear gas would be fired but the group stood still and scolded police. An officer charged straight to the crowd, pointing his pepper spray at them. His colleagues followed, but a metal fan was hurled in front of their feet.

One officer deployed pepper spray at reporters' cameras and faces, before another officer pushed an elderly woman who knelt to beg him not to use tear gas.

Meanwhile, protesters arrived at the Hong Kong Coliseum where they raised a black flag saying "Reclaim Hong Kong, Revolution of our time" on a flagpole and occupied a footbridge over Cheung Wan Road with makeshift roadblocks at 5pm.

They hurled bricks and objects at police who were guarding the toll plaza of Cross Harbour Tunnel.

At 6pm, police deployed more than 10 tear gas canisters and arrested at least one person.

Police said in a statement at about 6pm that some protesters who gathered near Empire Centre of Tsim Sha Tsui hurled smoke bombs.

Confrontation spread to Whampoa in the evening. Restaurants Yoshinoya and Genki Sushi were vandalized and special tactical squad members arrested a man.

Tear gas was deployed to disperse the protesters, who hurled bricks at the police at 7.30pm.

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