Molotov cocktails, burned barricades and tear gas: the heart of Hong Kong is the scene of clashes between police and protesters.
Tens of thousands of Hong Kong prodemocracy activists defied the ban on demonstrations on Saturday (August 31st) and took to the streets of the former British colony. The police, who had called several figures of the movement the day before, had justified the decision to ban the demonstration by citing the scuffles last Sunday, among the most serious since the start of the protest in June.
To circumvent the ban, calls had been made to organize religious gatherings, which do not require the same authorizations. In the early afternoon, several thousand people were gathered in a stadium in the Wanchai district (center).
The tension mounted in the late afternoon, when a small group of radicals attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails policemen arranged around the complex housing the Hong Kong institutions including the Legislative Council (LegCo), the "Parliament" local who had been sacked on 1st July. They briefly managed to break down the barriers protecting the LegCo, before being repulsed by the police force with a lot of tear, with the intervention of guns projecting a particular blue liquid. According to local media, this dye should help identify suspects.
"Peaceful protests do not work"says a young protester. "Radicals must make anger speak to get something. "We will not surrender"said a graffiti on a wall at the nearby Admiralty metro station.
The protesters then moved towards the east. They burned a huge barricade of seats pulled from the stands of a sports field near the police headquarters in the Wanchai area (center). The flames were extinguished after half an hour. "Radical protesters have launched incendiary and corrosive bombs" against the police, the police said in a statement, citing a "Serious threat" for everyone around.
Hong Kong has been going through its worst crisis for almost three months since being handed over to China in 1997, with almost daily actions that have sometimes degenerated. An unprecedented situation that authorities in the semi-autonomous region are struggling to meet.
This Saturday, August 31 marks the fifth anniversary of Beijing's refusal to hold universal suffrage elections in Hong Kong. This decision triggered the 2014 "Umbrella Movement", marked by 79 days of occupation of the city's financial and political heart. Eventually, this historic mobilization ended without any concessions from the Chinese central government. The current protesters are determined not to let their movement die slowly.
On Saturday, the demonstration was convened by the Civil Rights Front (FCHR), a non-violent organization that has been behind the biggest rallies in recent months. In particular that of August 18 which had gathered 1.7 million people according to the organizers, without any overflow.
In addition to the prohibition of demonstrations, the prodemocracy movement was saturated in Saturday with the blow of the net of the day before, in which five prominent militants and three deputies were arrested. Among them, two prominent representatives of the "umbrella movement", Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, aged 22, were arrested on Friday at dawn, and charged with "Invitation to participate in an unauthorized gathering". They were then released on bail. "We will continue the fight", promised Mr. Wong while lambasting "The chilling effect" arrests of opponents.
900 people arrested since June
The protesters, who have shown great creativity in their modes of action over the past three months, have suggested a lot of initiatives, such as "Shopping mass" or to participate in religious gatherings to pray for "Hong Kong fishermen".
On Saturday morning, LIHKG, a forum popular with protesters, announced on Twitter that its application was the target of "The worst attack she ever suffered". A senior police official announced that his troops would remain mobilized in the event of new clashes with the radical fringe of the movement.
Another activist, Andy Chan, founder of a tiny pro-independence party banned by the authorities, was also arrested, along with two other known protesters, Rick Hui and Althea Suen. And for the first time since the beginning of the mobilization in June, three deputies were also arrested on Friday: Cheng Chung-tai, Au Nok-hin and Jeremy Tam.
More than 900 people have been arrested since June. The police have, however, denied wanting to undermine the weekend's protests.