Hong Kong pro-democracy activists and riot police clashed in chaotic scenes around the city yesterday with police in full riot gear chasing protesters through crowds of horrified lunchtime shoppers.
Several rallies in shopping mall started peacefully around midday with a few hundred people at each chanting slogans such as “Free Hong Kong”, but by late afternoon hardcore black-clad activists trashed shops and metro stations and erected road blocks around the city.
Police made dozens of arrests and deployed tear gas to disperse protesters, saying they used “minimum force”. Television footage showed shoppers screaming and some injured when police charged inside a mall.
The young protesters, many wearing face masks to shield their identity, were often supported by shoppers.
In one mall a group of riot police, shields out front and pepper spray canisters in, hand were forced to retreat backwards by chanting shoppers until they were outside of the mall.
In another incident, a group of 50 shoppers inside a mall faced off against riot police outside, chanting “Hong Kong police mafia”. The shoppers cheered when police drove off.
Hong Kong’s police, once praised as “Asia’s finest”, have been accused of using excessive force in dealing with protesters and have lost the confidence and respect of many Hong Kongers.
“Hong Kong used to be a prosperous city and now she has become a police state. Hong Kong is my home. We should protect her. We should resist,” said a 70-year-old who only gave his last name, Hui.