The Weekend in Hong Kong; Bans, Arrests, Petrol Bombs and Defiance

On Friday Hong Kong Police banned demonstrations on security grounds and arrested several key activists and legislators in a dragnet on pro-democracy figures. Two of the leaders, Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow were among those arrested, charged and bailed for “inciting others to take part in unauthorised assembly”.

Protesters were in defiant mood throughout Saturday, which marked the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s rejection of a call for universal suffrage for Hong Kong that sparked the 79-day “Umbrella Movement” in 2014.

On Saturday afternoon, tens of thousands of protesters — many in their signature black T-shirts and under a colourful canopy of umbrellas — defied the order to march on Hong Kong island chanting “reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our times”.

As evening fell, violence ricocheted through the city’s commercial centre, with a minority of hardcore protesters unleashing a barrage of petrol bombs and rocks at riot police.

Chaos engulfed Hong Kong’s financial heart on Saturday night as police fired tear gas and water cannon at petrol-bomb-throwing protesters, who defied the ban on rallying — and mounting threats from China — to take to the streets for a 13th straight weekend.

Thick, black smoke swirled from a large fire started by masked demonstrators at a barricade on a major thoroughfare, moments from Hong Kong police headquarters. The fire was extinguished after burning for around half an hour.

Earlier police fired a water cannon and rounds of tear gas to disperse protesters massed in front of the city’s parliament, known as the Legislative Council (LegCo), which was stormed in July during the early days of the protest movement. They also marched by the official residence of Hong Kong’s embattled Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam, who is the focal point of anger after trying to pass a bill which would have allowed extradition to China.

The crowd briefly broke through the barrier outside the LegCo building, but were repelled by tear gas and jets of blue-coloured liquid fired from the water cannon.

As protesters streamed away, graffiti on a pillar inside a nearby metro station read: “We shall never surrender.”

“Radical protesters” threw “corrosives and petrol bombs” at officers, Hong Kong police said in a statement, posing a “serious threat” to everyone at the scene.

Late on Saturday and into the early hours, police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets and protesters threw petrol bombs, escalating clashes that have plunged the Asian financial centre into its worst political crisis in decades.

As government helicopters hovered overhead, protesters who had been banned from demonstrating set fires in the streets and threw bricks at police near government offices and Chinese military headquarters.

Hundreds of protesters briefly stormed Hong Kong’s international airport on Sunday, despite attempts to heighten security in anticipation of a planned demonstration, before they were chased away by police.

A group of masked protesters stormed the ground floor of Terminal 1 at around 1.30 pm, shattering a glass door blocking their path. They were chased off by airport police officers soon after.

The Hong Kong International Airport remained on partial lockdown in the afternoon, with at least one entrance closed. Airport staff also set up barriers and gates which block certain entrances. Riot police were spotted arriving at Terminal 1 at around 1:50pm.

Meanwhile, trains to the airport were suspended as pro-democracy protesters threatened to disrupt transport links to the airport, The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) operator said.

A notice at MTR stations said trains had been suspended, “As requested by the Hong Kong Government and Airport Authority to facilitate access control arrangements at the airport.”

Demonstrators planned to choke travel routes to the airport on Sunday after a chaotic night of running battles between police and masked protesters, the latest wave of unrest to hit the Chinese-ruled city.

Protest organisers have urged the public to overwhelm road and rail links to the airport, one of the world’s busiest, on Sunday and Monday, potentially disrupting flights.