Protesters clash with police at the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong on Saturday night. Photo: REUTERS/Laurel Chor
world

Hong Kong protesters unleash stash of petrol bombs; Chinese soldiers clear roads

25 Comments
By Jessie Pang and Kate Lamb

Fires blazed on the doorstep of a Hong Kong university into the early hours of Sunday as protesters hurled petrol bombs and police fired volleys of tear gas in some of the most dramatic scenes in more than five months of escalating violence.

Hours earlier, squads of Chinese soldiers dressed in shorts and T-shirts, some carrying red plastic buckets or brooms, emerged from their barracks to help clear debris that has blocked some key roads in the city for days.

The presence of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers on the streets, even to help clean up, could stoke further controversy over Hong Kong's autonomous status at a time many fear Beijing is tightening its grip on the city.

Hong Kong did not request assistance from the PLA and the military initiated the operation as a "voluntary community activity", a spokesman for the city's government said.

The Asian financial hub has been rocked by months of demonstrations, with many people angry at perceived Communist Party meddling in the former British colony, which was guaranteed its freedoms when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Beijing denies interfering and has blamed the unrest on foreign influences.

Huge fires lit up the night sky at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Kowloon district as protesters hurled scores of petrol bombs, some by catapult, and police fired round after round of tear gas before pushing the protesters up onto the podium of the red-brick campus.

It had the feel of a fortress, with barricades and black-clad protesters manning the ramparts with improvised weapons like bricks, crates of fire bombs, and bows and arrows at the ready.

Clashes between protesters and police have become increasingly violent in the Chinese-ruled city, which is grappling with its biggest political crisis in decades.

The demonstrations pose the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

Xi has said he is confident the Hong Kong government can resolve the crisis and until Saturday Chinese troops in the city had remained inside their base during the protests.

Chinese state media repeatedly broadcast comments made on Thursday by President Xi, in which he denounced the unrest and said "stopping violence and controlling chaos while restoring order is currently Hong Kong's most urgent task".

Efforts on Saturday to clear roads that have been blocked for days, causing massive disruption, followed some of the worst violence seen this year after a police operation against protesters at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Tuesday.

The authorities have since largely stayed away from at least five university campuses that had been barricaded by thousands of students and activists stockpiling makeshift weapons.

Many protesters appeared to have left the campuses by late Saturday but Hong Kong's Cross-Harbour Tunnel was still blocked by protesters occupying Polytechnic University.

"We don't want to attack the police, we just want to safeguard our campus," said Chan, a 20-year-old Polytechnic student. "We want citizens to join the mass strike and protect Hong Kong."

Earlier, hundreds of pro-China demonstrators gathered by the city's legislature and police headquarters, waving Chinese and Hong Kong flags.

Some held up posters reading "Police we stand with you", while others chanted "Support the police". Pro-China protests have so far attracted much smaller numbers than those angry at Beijing.

RARE TROOP PRESENCE

By late afternoon on Saturday, PLA soldiers had left the streets outside Baptist University beside their barracks in Kowloon Tong.

Chinese troops have appeared on streets only once since the 1997 handover, to help clear up after a typhoon in 2018. It was not clear how many were involved on Saturday.

The PLA garrison in Hong Kong said that when residents began cleaning, some troops "helped clear the road in front of the garrison gate".

Demosistō, a pro-democracy organisation, said Saturday's clean-up operation could set a "grave precedent" if the city's government invites the military to deal with internal problems.

In August, Beijing moved thousands of troops across the border into Hong Kong in what state news agency Xinhua described as a routine rotation.

Standing beside a black flag with the slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times," James Wong, 23, was among protesters manning a bridge at Baptist University.

"We didn’t want to confront the people and the PLA troops directly," he told Reuters. "We are not directly against the PLA, but rather the government. But the PLA should not leave their base because this is Hong Kong territory."

Hundreds of residents moved in to help clear barricaded roads near several universities.

Earlier clashes on Saturday saw at least one petrol bomb thrown before anti-government protesters at the campuses retreated. No soldiers appeared to have been involved in the confrontations.

"We just want our lives to continue," said one resident who was helping clear streets near Hong Kong University.

"There are many elderly who need to go to the hospital and children who need to go to school. I am very sad to see what is happening in my community."

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

25 Comments
Login to comment

Hong Kong people must determine their future. Not China. My inspirations, as a young man, are both Joshua Wong and Jimmy Sham, and it was great pleasure to see Jimmy heading the gay pride march in the city even without police authorisation. This article worries me. No intervention whatsoever. If Hong Kong wants to remain as Chinese, then I'll shut my mouth up and respect that.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Hundreds of residents moved in to help clear barricaded roads near several universities.

So the local people, who actually live there are helping the unarmed soldiers and the police in cleaning the huge mess left by the petrol-bomb throwing punk hooligans.

I support the locals, the police trying to protect them and any peaceful protestors (if they are any).

The petrol-bomb and brick throwing goons should be arrested and charged with reckless public endangerment.

They killed an innocent man with they hurled a brick at him.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

Another day, another round of senseless violence perpetrated by these goons.

What will be the excuse this time for those who blindly support these 'protesters?'

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

The brick hurlers give the peaceful protesters a bad name and should be arrested.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

The presence of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers on the streets, even to help clean up

Is a very bad sign.

Protecting freedom from authoritarians often requires unpleasantness. Stay strong Hong Kong!

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

The army doing clean up volunteering is a public relations coup. Peaceful help, by anyone is appreciated.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Protecting freedom from authoritarians often requires unpleasantness.

I guess you're after the freedom to burn people alive with gasoline and to hurl bricks at old people.

The rest of us will pay taxes so the police can throw these murders into prison and then we'll calmly clean up after your reckless hooliganism.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

What will be the excuse this time for those who blindly support these 'protesters?'

That this is what happens when you try to take away the freedoms a population has enjoyed for the last 40 years or more.

The government of Hong Kong refuses to make concessions, and the people of Hong Kong, by all evidence, are sick and tired of going along with the sham that their government is able to act independently of China. They will no longer cooperate in their own subjugation.

The Umbrella Revolution five years ago should have been a warning to the government that it needed to go extremely carefully with the people of Hong Kong. Instead, they were arrogant enough to assume that it was all over, and then with the astonishing act of opportunism that was the extradition bill, they precipitated the current crisis. This is entirely the Hong Kong government's fault, and they have been colossally incompetent in their handling of the situation over the last five months.

The city has collapsed around them; the population is now hostile both to the government and the police, and increasingly hostile to China. Twenty years is all it took to screw the whole thing up, and to turn a population from docile to rebellious. Lam can continue to limp along as chief executive - she's not elected by popular vote, after all - but the damage is permanent and her refusal to step down makes it worse day by day.

Of course, if it feels good to pin this all on molotov-throwing criminals, go ahead. But you're overlooking most of what's going on. People were out on the streets every day of the last working week. Ordinary people. Office workers in Central. Even kids in school uniform. There is support for the protest movement across the whole of Hong Kong society.

In the early days after the handover, there was a lot of talk about how China intended to make Hong Kong a showcase so that they could persuade the people of Taiwan that unification with China would be nothing to fear. How's that looking now?

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I support the locals, the police trying to protect them and any peaceful protestors (if they are any).

Yes but your country is an authoritarian one, and thus, the rights of the people come very low on a list of who matters.

I guess you're after the freedom to burn people alive with gasoline and to hurl bricks at old people.

Literally nobody is supporting those acts. But people will not sit by and be crushed by Beijing. To think otherwise is foolish.

The rest of us will pay taxes so the police can throw these murders into prison and then we'll calmly clean up after your reckless hooliganism.

It will be a happy day when the police and the scoundrels in Beijing are thrown into prison. In the meantime, of course the pro-Beijing shills have the right to defend their regime of brutality. But freedom of speech is a luxury for a chosen few.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

There are some police dressed as protesters doing nasty stuff to give the media false images and the people around the world false impressions. The "protesters" were caught entering a police vehicle at the end of their "protesting" shift.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The smarter HK sheep have figured out that it's a bad idea to let Chinese wolves protect them so inevitably there will be blood. This is how history is made. Get over it.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Interesting times. The HK people are very brave and beautiful. Their character is quite different than Japanese.

I never thought I would see this but they are not going down without a fight.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Fires blazed on the doorstep of a Hong Kong university into the early hours of Sunday as protesters hurled petrol bombs and police fired volleys of tear gas in some of the most dramatic scenes in more than five months of escalating violence.

.....Huge fires lit up the night sky at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Kowloon district as protesters hurled scores of petrol bombs, some by catapult,....

.....It had the feel of a fortress, with barricades and black-clad protesters manning the ramparts with improvised weapons like bricks, crates of fire bombs, and bows and arrows at the ready.

.....Earlier clashes on Saturday saw at least one petrol bomb thrown before anti-government protesters at the campuses retreated.

Throwing deadly fire bombs/Molotov cocktails at ANYONE is a invitation for an equally deadly response in return.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Throwing deadly fire bombs/Molotov cocktails at ANYONE is a invitation for an equally deadly response in return.

As the great French director, Jean Renoir, famously put it, “The truly terrible thing is that everybody has their reasons.” “The real hell of life is everyone has his reasons.” Hence the increasingly violent response of the Hong Kongers to the state violence and oppression blocking their path to the freedoms to which ALL people have a RIGHT and aspire and which no government has a right to deny for any reason whatsoever.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The army doing clean up volunteering is a public relations coup. Peaceful help, by anyone is appreciated.

I don't think so at all. This is a subtle reminder from the Chinese that "We are already here and we can be deployed anytime".

0 ( +2 / -2 )

What would happen to them if even one petrol bomb is thrown at police officers there?

Yes, the bloody history of the United States is testimony to the ruthlessness of the individuals running the American government. In the final year of the West Virginia "Mine War" in 1921 they attempted to bomb rebellious miners from the air. The overwhelming resources of government usually prevail when a people rises up. When not, it's called a revolution and enters the history books, innit?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@u_s__reamer

it's called a revolution and enters the history books

Revolution requires participation of real masses of people. I'm not sure these events in Hong Kong qualifify as a true revolution.

Anyway, my point is that many posters who root here for the rioters in Hong Kong woudn't be so symphatetic and supportive if the same thing (massive disruption of traffic, blockade of airports) happened in their home cities, even under very nice and progressive slogans. And it's very interesting to note that the people who critisize the Chinese authorities for the use of police force are completely silent about the same thing in France (police force against yellowjackets).

@wipeout

Demanding democracy? It's not very likely, is it.

OK, suppose demanding justice. "Black lives matter". As the events in Ferguson demonstarted, riots in the U.S. are suppressed without any hesitation whatever the demands of the rioters. And what happens if a rioteer throws a petrol bomb at police officers in the U.S.?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

my point is that many posters who root here for the rioters in Hong Kong woudn't be so symphatetic and supportive if the same thing (massive disruption of traffic, blockade of airports) happened in their home cities

Say what? If I were fighting for the freedom of all my compatriots and our ancestors to follow, I'd be out there with the protestors, much less sympathetic towards them.

What a sad outlook on life - that fighting for freedom just isn't worth the hassles of a few months disruption.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The patience of Chinese authorities is astonishing.

In a Tianenmen Square kind of way? I'm hoping not.

I wonder what would be the reaction of the police in the U.S. if, let's say, crowds of rioters with covered faces block the JFK airport? 

Why are people comparing this to the US, though?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What a sad outlook on life - that fighting for freedom just isn't worth the hassles of a few months disruption

Don't tell me that, I just observe. Tell it to the Honkongers who lived among this "hassles" for several month.

Or tell it to the Ukrainians, who five years ago started the same "fight for freedom", toppled their president, and as a result turned their country into complete nationalistic mess. Revolutions and other street "fights for freedom" are nice only from a safe distance, or if happen in a country you don't like.

And no, I'm not a Chinese government supporter. I just try to be objective.

Why are people comparing this to the US, though?

For objectivity. Why the very same thing (use of police force against street disturbances) is good and lawful in one countries and bad in other? Why if a rioteer attacks a police officer in Hong Kong it is a glorious act of fight for freedom, but if the same thing happens in the U.S. (U.K., France, Germany etc.) it's a crime, attack on Law and Order?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Don't tell me that, I just observe.

As did I. My observation was that the outlook behind yours is a sad outlook on life.

Tell it to the Honkongers who lived among this "hassles" for several month.

My HK friends support the protests fully. This is the freedom of themselves and all of their descendants to come.

For objectivity.

It's irrelevant. The US is not China, and comes with its own set of different problems. It's not like they are a bastion of good behavior by which to contrast. It's like saying 'how can you criticize this gangster, what would you say if that gangster was doing it?'

So let' just keep on topic here. We criticize the US plenty in stories about the US. This one is about HK and China.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why if a rioteer attacks a police officer in Hong Kong it is a glorious act of fight for freedom, but if the same thing happens in the U.S. (U.K., France, Germany etc.) it's a crime, attack on Law and Order?

The US, UK, France, and Germany already have freedom. Hong Kong people are on the streets demanding freedom - specifically, universal suffrage - and they took to the streets in the first place because freedoms they already had are under serious threat.

Law and order is a bit meaningless when the government of Hong Kong defers to China, attempts to brainwash the young with pro-China sentiment that the population has no appetite for, and shows its disdain for the citizens and their rights by opening up the possibility of being dragged off to China to disappear into the justice system there. Hong Kong people don't wish to be subjected to China's laws or China's methods of punishment.

They're fighting it, and that's a fight for freedom. They also know that it's now or never.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

yours is a sad outlook on life

May be. It's really sad to see people who do not learn from other's mistakes and gleefuly repeat them.

For objectivity.It's irrelevant

Objectivity is irrelevant to you? I'm not surprised at all.

The US is not China, and comes with its own set of different problems

Thanks for the tip. Sure every country is different, with its own set ot norms and rules. But some basic norms and rules are rather close if not the same in almost all countries. So I really can't understand why people from countries where any attack on police officers is a major crime pinishable by a long sentence or even instant death hail attacks on Honk Kong police. "We fight for freedom" excuse put Hong Kong rioters above the law?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Rioters should not be above the law, but neither should the police. And one could argue that hk's desperation to hold onto law and order has certainly done just that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And you are the judge who decides what deserves the respect and what doesn't

In this case, yeah. The CCP is a dictatorship. Therefore their laws don’t deserve respect. Why should laws written to control the people without any possible intervention by the people be respected? Only those supporting dictatorships would think that.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites