Hong Kong’s relatively calm post-election honeymoon came to an end this weekend, after police fired tear gas at a peaceful march on Sunday prompting clashes across parts of Kowloon.
Thousands of people joined a peaceful march from the clock tower in Tsim Sha Tsui to the Coliseum in Hung Hom at 3pm yesterday afternoon to celebrate last weekend’s district council election results, which saw the pro-democracy side win in a landslide. The march was also meant to remind Hongkongers to “not forget our original intentions,” a nod to the longstanding five key demands of the anti-government protests, which are currently in their sixth month.
But less than an hour into the rally, police started using tear gas and pepper spray to disperse protesters at Hung Hom and Tsim Sha Tsui.
Despite there being kids, babies and elderly among the crowd, police have just fired teargas onto Salisbury Road. Unsure what provoked it, but things seem calm and peaceful when the weapon was used. pic.twitter.com/BoBcac1uxh
— Rachel Cheung (@rachel_cheung1) December 1, 2019
After the initial volleys of tear gas were fired, protesters started spreading to other parts of Kowloon, namely Mong Kok and Whampoa. Most of the protesters had reportedly dispersed from Tsim Sha Tsui by early in the evening.
Video filmed by RTHK shows riot police firing tear gas at a bridge that connects to a housing estate in Whampoa and charging at protesters who had gathered on Nathan Road in Mong Kok.
One of the more shocking incidents from last night was caught by Now TV, which filmed officers charging into a Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station exit and pepper-spraying crowds. At one point an officer pushes an older woman who appears to be pleading with them to exercise restraint out of the way, then, as she kneels down and raises her hands, shoves her again with such force that her head appears to whip back and hit the concrete floor.
In the video, Demosisto member Ho Ka-yau can be seen rushing to the visibly dazed woman and comforting her as first-aiders tend to her. Ho (in white in the video below) later posted on Facebook that while the woman didn’t have any visible lacerations to her head, she reported swelling and dizziness.
Ho said that the woman was not arrested, and that they contacted a relative who accompanied her to the hospital.
Yesterday’s rally was one of the few to be given police approval in recent months, but police claimed in a statement that they had no choice but to break it up after some participants allegedly threw smoke bombs, “stirring up public fear and causing chaos.” According to RTHK, the post initially accused “hundreds” of “rioters” of throwing the devices — conflicting with eyewitness accounts. The post was later changed to simply say “some” threw smoke bombs.
RTHK reports there was also a small march from Edinburgh Place to the Wan Chai police headquarters on Sunday morning to protest the police use of tear gas, and another outside the U.S. Consulate in Central to thank President Donald Trump for signing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.