Firebombs, water cannons mark China’s National Day as Hong Kong’s wildcat protests wear on

A fire burns on a street in the vicinity of the government office complex in Admiralty this afternoon as unsanctioned protests cropped up across the city. Photo by Samantha Mei Topp.
A fire burns on a street in the vicinity of the government office complex in Admiralty this afternoon as unsanctioned protests cropped up across the city. Photo by Samantha Mei Topp.

Molotov cocktails, tear gas rounds, and blue-tinted jets of water streaked through the sky on Hong Kong Island today as protesters occupied roads in the vicinity of the government office complex in Admiralty before being pushed into Wan Chai as evening fell.

Thousands of people marched from Causeway Bay through Admiralty, Central, and Sheung Wan this afternoon, intent on overshadowing China’s National Day celebrations on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. The protests, which flared up across the city, were a continuation of Hong Kong’s months-long pro-democracy movement calling for, among other things, police accountability and universal suffrage in selecting the city’s leaders.

In a familiar pattern of events, the march on Hong Kong Island was largely peaceful early in the day, despite being held in defiance of a police ban, but things quickly took a turn for the chaotic as protesters began to mass in Admiralty late in the afternoon.

As protesters lobbed petrol bombs and set fires in nearby streets, police around the government complex deployed tear gas, as well as specialized trucks kitted out with high-pressure hoses and dyed water for marking protest participants, ultimately forcing protesters to fall back into Wan Chai.

As the crowd thinned and moved towards Causeway Bay along Hennessy Road, police continued to advance and began making arrests, and as of press time, the remaining contingent of protesters had moved on to Tin Hau.

Meanwhile, across the harbor in Kowloon, protesters gathered in Sham Shui Po this afternoon before setting off through Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, and Jordan in the direction of Tsim Sha Tsui.

At one point, protesters burned Chinese flags at the intersection of Nathan and Gascoigne roads.

While perhaps unsurprising, the defacing of China’s national symbols, in particular the flag, has proven to be an especially sore point for the pro-Beijing camp and mainland media, with five arrested in August for allegedly tossing the Chinese flag into Victoria Harbour.

This afternoon, as the front of the Kowloon protest reached the Tsim Sha Tsui police station, officers fired tear gas, prompting the crowd to reverse course.

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Clashes continued into the evening, with the SCMP reporting that a fire had been started in Prince Edward, and petrol bombs had been thrown in the vicinity of the Sham Shui Po police station.

Unrest has also rocked Sha Tin, Wong Tai Sin, Tuen Mun, and Tsuen Wan, where a man was reportedly shot in the chest with a live round earlier today.

Reporting by Stuart White, Vicky Wong, and Samantha Mei Topp.

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