HONG KONG police have fired volleys of teargas and rubber bullets at hundreds of protesters in Yuen Long as they came out in force to condemn last weekend’s mob violence which injured more than 45 pro-democracy activists.
Demonstrators in the New Territories rural town hurled bricks and bottles at riot police as they engaged in a stand-off with authorities, defying the order to ban the rally. Officers used sponge grenades, bullet-shaped weapons used to disperse crowds, as they tried to quell Saturday’s action following seven weeks of Hong Kong protests. Thousands gathered at multiple locations in the rural town on Saturday morning to voice their disgust at the attacks by suspected gang members against passengers at Yuen Long MTR, a mass transit railway station.
A 25-year-old activist who gave his name as Tan told the Guardian: “If no one stands up for those people who got hurt, in the future there may be more people who get hurt. We just want to say no to violence.”
Shortly after 5pm local time police began to use force as protesters barricaded themselves with street furniture and umbrellas.
According to Reuters, a hardcore group of activists carrying metal bats, slingshots and metal and wooden poles emerged as hundreds retreated from the area.
At around 7.30pm police charged into the crowds and began to beat protesters outside the Nam Ping village near the train station.
On Sunday about 100 masked men wearing white shirts stormed Yuen Long station and assaulted people with wooden sticks and metal rods.
Those targeted had been making their way back from a rally in the centre of Hong Kong where protesters defaced China’s Liaison Office, which stands as a symbol of Beijing’s authority over the former British colony.
Police were criticised for their slow response to the violence, which was captured in video footage taken inside a train carriage.
Passengers can be seen screaming and crying as they try to protect themselves against the assaults.
Witnesses claimed a pregnant woman and a woman holding a child were among those hurt.
Street protests sprung up in Hong Kong seven weeks ago when citizens demanded authorities scrap a bill that would have allowed people to be extradited to the mainland.
Protesters are now seeking independent inquiries into police use of force and are calling on Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam to step down.
They also want Hong Kong, which Britain handed to China in 1997, to enjoy universal suffrage.