Hong Kong protests smaller, largely peaceful

Hong Kong protests smaller, largely peaceful

Some demonstrators debate scaling back violence to avoid alienating the public

An anti-government demonstrator scuffles with a woman after she tried to remove his mask in Hong Kong on Saturday. (Reuters Photo)
An anti-government demonstrator scuffles with a woman after she tried to remove his mask in Hong Kong on Saturday. (Reuters Photo)

HONG KONG: Protesters marching peacefully hit the rain-slick streets of Hong Kong again in multiple locations on Saturday, defying police warnings that they were gathering illegally. Police said rioters tossing petrol bombs also damaged a subway station.

The rallies in Kowloon and a small gathering of retirees outside police headquarters on Hong Kong island maintained pressure on the city’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, to bend to the months-long protest movement’s demands ahead of her annual policy address on Wednesday.

Hundreds of protesters barricaded a road in Kowloon and lobbed petrol bombs at a train station, “posing a threat to the safety of citizens”, police said on their Facebook page, but causing no injuries.

While protesters had a full schedule of events planned for the weekend, some demonstrators have been debating whether to soften their tactics to avoid alienating more moderate supporters.

Saturday’s march was called in protest against the government invoking emergency laws, including banning masks at public gatherings.

Many thousands of marchers joined the rally in Kowloon, classified by police as an illegal gathering. A cohort of police wearing riot helmets and banging their plastic shields followed some distance behind, clearing road blocks left by the march.

Outside police headquarters, about 200 people, many of them retirees, also gathered peacefully, some shouting abuse at plainclothes officers who did not intervene. There were gatherings of several hundred people in other locations also. A rally in a shopping mall pulled together about 300 people who sang and put up protest posters.

The majority of protesters wore masks over their mouths in defiance of a week-old ban that makes face coverings punishable by one year in jail when worn at rallies.

Overall, however, the protests were lower-key and appeared to lack the numbers of some much larger demonstrations seen during the more than four months of unrest that have gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

As recently as last Sunday, tens of thousands of masked protesters had hit Hong Kong’s rain-drenched streets.


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