Defying police objections, protesters returned to the streets yesterday, with impromptu demonstrations across the city prompting a fierce response from police who, among other things, shot a young woman in the eye with a projectile, fired tear gas inside an MTR station, and engaged in apparent undercover tactics to ensnare demonstrators.
The protests were just the latest in a months-long campaign that was touched off by a controversial extradition bill, but has since expanded to include broader democratic reforms as public rage against a largely unresponsive pro-Beijing government has mounted.
Protesters started gathering at Victoria Park at around 1pm, with some blocking off streets shortly thereafter. According to the SCMP, protesters occupied major roads near the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay from around 4pm.
Protests also sprang up in nearby Wan Chai, with police firing tear gas, and protesters throwing at least one molotov cocktail.
Molotov being thrown in Wan Chai. Credit: SCMP staff pic.twitter.com/aRfWxq9EOS
— Olga Wong (@Olgawys) August 11, 2019
In Kowloon, protesters also gathered at around 2pm in Sham Shui Po, where they had vowed to have a demonstration protesting police’s arrest of a student leader a few days prior. According to HK01, protesters gathered at the Maple Street Playground and moved on to lay siege to the Sham Shui Po police station.
The police began to disperse the crowd with tear gas at around 5pm.
Police continued firing tear gas, affecting both protesters and local residents alike, and made several arrests, according to the SCMP. Demonstrators warned residents away from areas where clashes were taking place.
Video also showed police firing tear gas at pedestrian footbridges crowded with journalists and locals, much to residents’ chagrin.
"There's children up here!"
Hong Kong police fire tear gas in the direction of journalists and shoppers in the Sham Shui Po neighborhood.
— FierceWarriorNStilettos (@InactionNever) August 11, 2019
A number of protesters then moved to Tsim Sha Tsui, with a crowd gathering outside the Tsim Sha Tsui police station. A number of protesters formed barricades, with police responding by firing tear gas in the vicinity of the Park Lane Shopper’s Boulevard, a popular retail destination.
One female protester was shot in the eye by what appeared to be a bean bag round and was hospitalized, according to Headline News. Video from the scene showed paramedics heavily bandaging the woman’s face as blood streamed from the wound.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Roy Kwong posted on Facebook at around midnight that the girl was in “very serious” condition and would undergo emergency surgery soon.
Disturbing image. A woman got hit in her eye by projectile fired from the #TsimShaTsui police station. Reports said it was a bean bag round that went through her goggles. Online sources said her eyeball has burst & she might be permanently blind in one eye. #HongKongProtests pic.twitter.com/fuY2Ebvo53
— Frances Sit (@frances_sit) August 11, 2019
Chatter online immediately began circulating saying the woman was permanently blinded in her right eye, but the rumors couldn’t be confirmed. Representatives of Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where the woman was reportedly receiving treatment, declined to comment when contacted by Coconuts HK, as did representatives of the Hospital Authority.
A policeman in TST also sustained serious burns from a suspected petrol bomb, according to the SCMP.
In Kwai Chung, protesters began gathering at the police station at around 9pm, according to HK01. Some protesters hurled projectiles at the building, but retreated when riot police arrived.
As protesters moved towards the Kwai Fong MTR station, some spraying water hoses and fire extinguishers at police, officers gave chase. In an unprecedented move, officers entered the station and fired tear gas into the paid concourse area, in contravention of the tear gas manufacturer’s warnings.
Lawmaker Roy Kwong, who was the station when the tear gas was fired, said the move could have “disastrous consequences.”
At around 10pm, in Causeway Bay, a handful of men dressed as protesters were seen arresting other demonstrators, and were soon backed up by uniformed riot police. Reporters followed the men and asked if they were police officers, but the men refused to answer or show ID, TVB reports.
When asked why they were dressed like protesters, one of the men replied, “We’re working, do not disturb us.” He then asked reporters to “show their press IDs” and told them to “put down the camera,” while adding, “I don’t have to show my identification to the whole world.”
The men then left in a white van, and police have yet to respond as to whether the men were undercover officers.
Meanwhile, in North Point, tensions ran high throughout the day, with riot police showing up at night to establish defensive lines. The neighborhood, which has a large Fujianese population, was the scene of violent clashes between armed locals and protesters last week.
— Coconuts Hong Kong (@CoconutsHK) August 11, 2019
Rumors of thugs traveling from Fujian to “protect” their compatriots in North Point had circulated widely on social media, and one nervous shopkeeper told Coconuts HK that at least one of a group of men gathered in his shop appeared to have come from the mainland.
Groups of restive-looking men were spotted gathering on side streets, and one local resident of Fujianese parentage said they were speaking in a Fujianese dialect.
However, protesters largely avoided the area, and the bulk of friction was between the crowd of locals and journalists who were monitoring the scene.
I know it shouldn’t surprise me, but it really struck me yesterday in North Point how chummy the pro-Beijing group were with the police. Then the pro-Beijingers attacked journalists for no reason, and basically got away with it. It was bizarre to watch #hkprotests pic.twitter.com/QP4f4uQm4w
— Rachel Blundy (@rachelblundy) August 12, 2019
The unrest continued late into the night, after police stopped and searched a teenager who was putting up a poster at the Whampoa Garden housing complex. Residents, already angry with police for visiting the property the night before, poured out of their buildings to angrily demand officers “get out of our home!”
According to Stand News, police eventually let the teen go and left at around 2am.
The Hospital Authority reported this morning that at least 40 people — 29 men and 11 women — were injured in yesterday’s clashes, with two in serious condition.
The government, meanwhile, had harsh words for the protesters.
“We are outraged by the violent protesters’ behaviours which showed a total disregard of the law, posing a serious threat to the safety of police officers and other members of the public,” it said in a statement released in the wee hours of the morning. “We severely condemn the acts.”
“There is no longer any defined period of time or fixed locations for these persistent and large-scale illegal and violent acts, depriving the right of ordinary people to carry on their daily lives. We appeal to all members of the public to say no to violence to help the community to restore order as soon as possible. The police will enforce the law strictly and resolutely to bring illegal protesters to justice.”