Hong Kong police yesterday fired water cannon and tear gas as crowds held an illegal march, with hard-core protesters throwing petrol bombs and trashing businesses, capping a week of anger after the recent stabbing and beating of two pro-democracy protesters.
Authorities had forbidden the march in Tsim Sha Tsui, a densely-packed shopping district filled with luxury boutiques and hotels, citing public safety and previous violence from hardcore protesters.
But tens of thousands joined the unsanctioned rally regardless, showing the movement can still keep pressure on the city’s pro-Beijing leaders after nearly five months of protests and political unrest.
In a familiar pattern, the huge rally began peacefully.
But it soon descended into chaos as smaller groups of hard-core protesters hurled petrol bombs at police, subway entrances and at Chinese mainland bank branches as well as vandalising multiple shops.
Police responded with repeated volleys of tear gas, rubber bullets and baton charges.
Throughout the afternoon a water cannon truck chased protesters down Nathan Road, one of the city’s busiest shopping thoroughfares, leaving it streaked with blue dye from the vehicle’s turrets.
The dye, used to identify protesters, also contains a painful pepper solution.
As the protesters fled the streets, frontliners stayed behind to slow the advance of riot police, setting fire to makeshift barricades.
Tensions were running high after the leader of the group organising the weekend rally, Jimmy Sham, was hospitalised by men wielding hammers earlier in the week.
Then on Saturday night a man handing out pro-democracy flyers was stabbed in the neck and stomach, reportedly by an assailant who later shouted pro-Beijing slogans.