Published On: Sen, Okt 7th, 2019

Violence flares in Hong Kong as emergency rule spurs backlash

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Riot police walk across Hennessy Road during a protest in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong, China, on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. Violence escalated in Hong Kong as protesters set fires and vandalized train stations and banks, pushing back against government efforts to quell demonstrations when it invoked a colonial-era emergency law. Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg

Hongkong – CakrabuanaNews – Hong Kong suffered one of its most violent weekends since anti-China protests began in June, with demonstrators paralysing large swaths of the financial hub after leader Carrie Lam imposed emergency rule for the first time in more than half a century to ban face masks.

On a holiday weekend normally packed with tourists, the city’s already reeling economy took another hit as banks, supermarkets and rail all cut service. MTR Corp., the rail operator, halted all travel except direct lines to the airport on Saturday for the first time since 2007. Train services remained limited on Monday, a holiday, with most stations closed due to vandalism. For the second time in a week, a teenage demonstrator was shot and wounded in scuffles with police.

Through periods of torrential rain Sunday, police battled with protesters who occupied streets, vandalised property and targeted businesses with links to the mainland. Some demonstrators reportedly gathered outside the People’s Liberation Army downtown barracks for the first time.

“From the huge turnout today you can see people aren’t abandoning us and the movement,” said a 17-year-old protester who gave his name as Rocky, wearing all black and a mask on his face. “Hong Kong people would only be angrier and more united if she rolled out more measures under the emergency law.”

“The government started a very bad and dangerous precedent in invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to enact this anti-mask law,” said Eric Cheung, a law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong and a member of the committee that elects the city’s leader. “There is growing distrust against the government, against the police.”

Hong Kong’s financial markets will be closed for the public holiday on Monday. A 10th of the city’s ATMs were vandalised, the Hong Kong Association of Banks said in a statement on Sunday, adding that the financial system had adequate liquidity for withdrawals.

Almost four months of growing discontent have taken their toll on the tourism and the retail industries, driving the city’s $360bil economy toward recession. Financial Secretary Paul Chan warned in the Global Times last month that while Hong Kong likely entered a technical recession in the third quarter, the performance of the fourth will depend on whether the city can quell the unrest.

Tourism from China declined 42% in August as the value of retail sales fell by almost a quarter. Luxury goods such as jewellery and watches are common purchases by mainland tourists, and the value of those sales slid by almost half. Some smaller store owners have closed down: In Hong Kong’s usually bustling Causeway Bay shopping district, one in 10 stores now stand empty, according to data from real estate agency Midland IC&I Ltd.

Protesters initially hit the streets in June to protest a bill that would’ve allowed extraditions to mainland China. While Lam finally withdrew the proposal in September, the protests have since expanded to include calls for an independent inquiry into police violence and greater democratic accountability in the former British colony. The protests have become almost daily events with regular violent clashes between activists and police.

Shot and injured

A 14-year-old boy was shot and injured Friday night during a scuffle between a plainclothes police officer and demonstrators who had attacked his car. Just days earlier, police shot and injured an 18-year-old man who had attacked them during the National Day protests.

On Sunday, violence flared again as protesters blocked roads and set fires. Video footage showed a bloodied man laying on a road after he was dragged out of the taxi he was driving through a crowd and stomped on by a group of protesters after the vehicle hit some of them.

“Public safety has been jeopardised and the public order of the whole city is being pushed to the verge of a very dangerous situation,” the police said in a statement early Monday. “Police appeal to the public to report illegal acts and join hands to maintain public order.”

The latest protests followed warnings from opposition leaders that Lam’s decision to invoke a colonial-era emergency law to impose the mask ban would only further anger the government’s critics.

The High Court denied an application for an interim injunction by all 24 pro-democracy lawmakers on the ban of wearing of face masks during protests, Radio Television Hong Kong reported. The court adjourned a hearing on their application for a judicial review of the government measure to later this month, it said. The application followed another court’s rejection on Friday of a temporary suspension of the law sought by pro-democracy activists.

While Lam has promised to address the underlying causes of the unrest and faced critics in a town hall event last month, she has so far refused to address protesters’ demands for greater democracy. Any solution requires the approval of Beijing, which is wary of any process that could produce a leader who challenges its rule over the city.

Over the weekend, protesters began targeting Chinese state-run companies including major banks. A. Lau, a 26-year-old graphic designer who has joined with other protesters in vandalising property, said the demonstrators were attacking government offices and “organisations against us.”

“We are not irrational and we are not vandalising arbitrarily,” he said. “We are venting our anger toward the authorities as they are not responding to us.” – Bloomberg -The Star

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