Two Officers Injured as Rally Ends in Violence: Hong Kong Update




  • In World
  • 2020-01-19 09:11:43Z
  • By Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Two Hong Kong police officers were beaten at a rally in the city center that was dispersed as it descended into confusion and violent clashes.

The officers, from the Police Community Liaison Office, the both suffered head wounds after being attacked with wooden sticks and other weapons near the gathering in Chater Garden in the Central business district. The meeting of thousands of protesters started peacefully with speeches and music but was dispersed when police ordered an end to it, citing violent behavior by protesters.

Sunday's events followed a relative lull in the past weeks, after seven months of sometimes-violent protests that were ignited by a bill to allow extraditions to mainland China. The demonstrators' demands have broadened to include greater democracy and an independent inquiry into police conduct.

Here's the latest (all times local):

Venue cleared (5 p.m.)

The Chater Garden venue was virtually cleared of the throngs of demonstrators gathered earlier for a rally scheduled to run until 10 p.m. The meeting was meant to reinvigorate the Hong Kong protest movement, with a list speakers from trade unions, religious groups and student associations.

Objects thrown at officers (4:30 p.m.)

Police said that they asked the organizers to suspend the rally in response to violence from some people at the scene. Objects were thrown at officers, according to a statement.

Police scuffled with demonstrators who spilled into roads and set fire to barricades. Officers handcuffed a number of people. At least one person was bleeding from a head wound.

'Refocus on Hong Kong' (2:30 p.m.)

One of the organizers of Sunday's rally, Ventus Lau of the Hong Kong Civil Assembly team, said at the event: "Today we believe we need to make the world focus on Hong Kong again. In the past few weeks, maybe they've been focusing on Iran or even on the Taiwan election. But now, it is time to look at Hong Kong again."

"It is 2020, the year of the Legislative Council election. If the government refuses to give us universal suffrage, this is a clear sign that they are still suppressing our human rights, our freedom and our democracy," he said.

Air traffic drops (11:30 a.m.)

Traffic through Hong Kong International Airport declined across the board last year as months of ongoing unrest, including protest-related closures at the transit hub.

The airport handled 71.5 million passengers in 2019, down 4.2% from a year earlier, the Airport Authority Hong Kong said in a press release Sunday. Flight movements fell 1.9% while total cargo throughput declined 6.1% from a year ago to 4.8 million tonnes.

Some of the more violent clashes seen in Hong Kong happened at the airport and its rail link last year as protesters organized sit-ins that led to the delays and cancellation of hundreds of flights.

Watchdog limitations (Sunday 8 a.m.)

Lisa Lau, a former member of the Independent Police Complaints Council, said the body's lack of investigative powers is an impediment to investigating the protests, and added the group has not yet met with the police commander in charge of the July incident in Yuen Long when subway riders were violently attacked, Ming Pao reported Sunday.

Wong calls for support (3 p.m.)

Activist Joshua Wong said the number of participants in Sunday's march is crucial to continue informing the international community of Hong Kong's ongoing struggle. Speaking to local media, he said the movement needs to maintain a sufficient level of demonstrators at the marches to ensure the world's attention does not wane.

Ventus Lau told Radio Television Hong Kong that protesters must be aware they might be involved in clashes with police.

Demonstrators "may be stopped and searched by the police or you may face clashes between the police and the citizens," given past experiences, he said.

Pro-establishment support (Saturday 2 p.m.)

More than 100 people gathered in Kowloon Tong Saturday to protest what they see as anti-government bias from local broadcaster RTHK. Elsewhere, about 50 pro-police supporters rallied outside the Mong Kok police station, presenting officers with gifts to show their support.

--With assistance from Kari Lindberg.

To contact the reporters on this story: Eric Lam in Hong Kong at elam87@bloomberg.net;Aaron Mc Nicholas in Hong Kong at amcnicholas2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Shamim Adam at sadam2@bloomberg.net, Stanley James

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