Hong Kong Protests: Chaotic Scenes Unfold In Streets Ahead Of China’s National Day – NPR

Riot police arrive after protestors vandalize in Hong Kong on Sunday. Riot police fired tear gas Sunday after a large crowd of protesters at a Hong Kong shopping district ignored warnings to disperse in a second straight day of clashes, sparking fears of more violence ahead of China’s National Day.

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Riot police arrive after protestors vandalize in Hong Kong on Sunday. Riot police fired tear gas Sunday after a large crowd of protesters at a Hong Kong shopping district ignored warnings to disperse in a second straight day of clashes, sparking fears of more violence ahead of China’s National Day.

Vincent Yu/AP

Chaotic scenes overtook the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday, as protesters and police engaged in running street battles in a march billed as a rally against global totalitarianism. It also launched the 17th week of pro-democracy demonstrations aimed at China’s tightening grip on the territory.

Masked protesters, many wearing black and carrying umbrellas as a protection against water cannon and tear gas, tore up bricks and hurled obscenities at riot police. Hong Kong police fanned out early, deploying copious rounds of tear gas in some of the most violent clashes the territory has witnessed.

“Beijing is restricting democracy and won’t allow free elections,” said a 26-year-old protester who identified himself just as Kevin for fear of reprisal. He and other protesters were quickly changing out of black T-shirts to avoid being identified by police.

The crowds marched down one of the main arteries of Hong Kong island, singing “Glory to Hong Kong,” the anthem of their movement, and chanting, “Fight for Freedom, Liberate Hong Kong.”

The demonstrations on Sunday, which left a broad swath of destruction and street fires, were part of anti-totalitarianism rallies staged in more 60 cities around the globe.

Pro-democracy protesters demonstrate in Hong Kong on Sunday marking the 17th week since the protests began.

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Pro-democracy protesters demonstrate in Hong Kong on Sunday marking the 17th week since the protests began.

Ella Mage/NPR

Sunday’s violent protests followed a what started as peaceful gathering Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of the Umbrella Movement, a pro-democracy campaign that helped fuel the mass street protests that have overtaken Hong Kong’s streets for months.

That movement, too, descended into violent confrontations with protesters raining bricks down on government office buildings and police responding with water cannons.

The current ongoing turmoil was originally triggered by a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed suspects in Hong Kong to be transferred to mainland China to stand trial.

But the shelving of the bill did not temper infuriated protesters, who have additional demands including direct democratic elections and an independent investigation into alleged policy brutality. Once considered Asia finest police force, allegations of abuse and excessive force have dogged the Hong Kong Police in recent months.

The weekend protests come just days before the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China on Tuesday.

Beijing hopes to use the day to highlight the country’s achievements, but protesters would like to upstage official events by highlighting months-long calls for democratic reforms.

Protesters in Hong Kong use umbrellas for cover in Sunday protests in which police deployed water cannons and tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowds.

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Ella Mage/NPR

Protesters in Hong Kong use umbrellas for cover in Sunday protests in which police deployed water cannons and tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowds.

Ella Mage/NPR

Five years ago, the pro-democracy Occupy Movement ended with the government making no concessions. Intent on a different outcome, demonstrators are calling for protest marches to continue into October as they press for the right to directly elect their leaders.

More than a dozen people were injured in the weekend clashes with police, who arrested several people in the protest.

China has denied eroding Hong Kong’s freedoms, as protesters insist, and authorities in Hong Kong have defended the police response to the protests as appropriate.

Hong Kong police inspect a barricade set ablaze by pro-democracy protesters who took to the streets on Sunday in demonstrations that at times turned violent.

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Hong Kong police inspect a barricade set ablaze by pro-democracy protesters who took to the streets on Sunday in demonstrations that at times turned violent.

Ella Mage/NPR

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, is scheduled to lead a delegation of 240 people to Beijing on Monday to celebrate China’s National Day.

While President Xi Jinping will lead China in commemorations designed to showcase his country’s strength and military prowess, protesters in Hong Kong have their own plans: pouring into the streets to demand that Beijing uphold the one-country-two-systems framework and to stop chipping away at Hong Kong’s liberties.

When asked what the Oct. 1 anniversary meant to him, 24-year old protester Auriga Wong said: “Nothing, because we lack the sense of belonging to China.”

Wong said since Hong Kong inherited a different political system from the British, the anniversary “means nothing to us.”

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