Hong Kong riot police have stormed a metro station, using batons to beat passengers as violent clashes deepened political unrest in the city for the 13th weekend in a row.
Lai, 31, returning home from protests, was in a train car that pulled into the Prince Edward mass transit railway stop in Kowloon just before 11 pm. He saw a minimum of twenty police officers on the station platform when suddenly 5 or six ran into his carriage.
“Everyone began to scream ‘they are coming, they’re crazy’,” Lai said. “They kept moving and hitting everybody within the car. I started running. I saw police using their batons to keep hitting the same person on the head, even though he was kneeling in the corner,” he said.
Video footage showed police pepper-spraying protesters within the train automotive, chasing and arresting others on the train platform and ordering them to kneel against a wall with their hands on the heads. One man could be seen hurt from the top.
In a statement, police said they had entered the station after protesters damaged a customer service center and ticket machines, as well as assaulted members of the public. Before police stormed the automotive, protesters had argued with a man wielding a hammer at the station, according to local media.
Saturday’s clashes come after almost 3 months of mass protests, triggered by a bill that would allow extradition to mainland China. The demonstrations have plunged Hong Kong into its most serious political crisis in decades. The Hong Kong government, backed by Beijing, has ramped up their tactics on protesters who have also escalated their methods, throwing petrol bombs and bricks on Saturday.
Protesters clashed with police in numerous locations throughout the city as they took to the streets in defiance of a police ban and marked the anniversary of a decision by Beijing to limit democratic reforms within the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. Earlier within the day, thousands of protesters had enclosed government headquarters, shining lasers at the building, taunting police, and throwing objects into the complex.
Police discharged multiple rounds of tear gas from within the compound, shrouding a six-lane traffic artery in gas whereas protesters threw the canisters back. The police also deployed water cannons, spraying protesters with blue dye, a method of marking them for later arrests.
After retreating from the govt complex, hundreds of protesters surrounded the police headquarters where they built a barricade of plastic barriers, traffic cones, and other debris across a road and set it alight, sending plumes of black smoke into the sky until firefighters put the blaze out.
Clashes continuing throughout the night as police in numerous locations hunted person protesters, promise them to the bottom to arrest them. Undercover police dressed as protesters were seen firing rounds of pepper spray on demonstrators, who attacked them with umbrellas. Police reportedly fired at least one live round in a very warning shot outside Victoria Park.
A march earlier within the day was peaceful, attended by families, middle-aged and old residents. The march had originally been called off by the organizer, Civil Human Rights Front, after police arrested prominent pro-democracy lawmakers and activists, including Joshua Wong, a student leader in the 2014 pro-democracy protests known as the umbrella movement.
Demonstrators marched despite significant rain, following parts of the original route. Jackie, a protester who had brought her mother to the march, said: “Our government hasn’t replied to any of our demands … we tend to are in a corner and we can’t do anything apart from coming out to the street every single weekend.”
Critics have begun scrutiny footage of the police storming the railway station to associate episode in July, once dozens of masked men in Yuen Long, a city district of Hong Kong, beat commuters with rods – an incident that spurred more protests.
Despite the arrests and harsher police tactics, protesters said they would still build their demands, which include the permanent withdrawal of the extradition bill.
“If we tend to stop currently, only punishment awaits the United States,” same sonny Lai, 21, a protester who was wearing plastic body amour, a gas mask and gloves and was holding boxing pads. Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has hinted that a draconian emergency law could be enacted, giving the government sweeping powers to crack down on demonstrators.
“They are trying to crack down on the movement as soon as possible, and they just don’t want to give any concessions to Hong Kong people,” said Lo Kin-hei, the vice-chair of the Democratic party. Observers believe Beijing is anxious to prevent the protests before one October, which marks 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic, a politically important anniversary.
“If we don’t stand up now, it’s going to be too late,” said Simon Chang, a protester in Wan Chai, where earlier in the day hundreds had filled a sports stadium, holding posters featuring Lam with a bloodied eye – a reference to a protester who was blinded in one eye.
Another protester, who asked to not give her name, said: “Even if they arrest people, it will make us angrier, We will keep coming out.”