HK cops fire tear gas, rubber bullets as strikes paralyse city
Transport chaos as demonstrators block roads and rail services while hundreds are stranded at the airport, with more than 200 flights cancelled
HONG KONG: Hong Kong police fired tear gas and rubber bullets in fresh clashes with protesters after a general strike caused transport chaos yesterday, and as night fell thousands of activists blocked roads in several districts.
The latest protests surpassed all the earlier shows of dissent for scale and intensity, escalating after Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader warned that the city is on the verge of an "extremely dangerous situation" and represented a challenge to China's sovereignty.
As some train and bus services resumed, tens of thousands of demonstrators fanned out across several districts, and there were running battles with riot police as some activists besieged police stations.
Thousands of black-clad protesters later occupied roads in Admiralty district near government buildings for several hours before moving to other areas. By nightfall, protests continued across the city.
Earlier, speaking to the media for the first time in two weeks, Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam remained defiant as she rejected calls from protesters demanding her resignation, saying the government would be resolute in maintaining law and order.
She warned that the protests were putting the former British colony on a path of no return and had hurt its economy.
"They claim they want a revolution and to restore Hong Kong. These actions have far exceeded their original political demands," said a stern-faced Ms Lam, flanked by senior members.
"These illegal acts that challenge our country's sovereignty, and jeopardise 'one country two systems', will destroy the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong," Ms Lam said, referring to the territory's administrative system since 1997, when it was handed back to China.
Some demonstrators accused Ms Lam of again fuelling the crisis by ignoring public sentiment, however, and pledged to continue their movement.
It was "totally a waste of time" to hear her speak, said Mr Jay Leung, 20, a university student.
"I don't think the government is doing anything to heal society," he added.
Russell, 38, who works in the tourism industry, said: "Nothing, she said nothing. I didn't hear anything positive, she just made it worse."
Within hours of the comments, protesters hurled umbrellas and other items at police in the residential district of Wong Tai Sin, where officers responded with pepper spray. Police also fired tear gas in Tin Shui Wai district as tension flared.
The demonstrators blocked key roads, including three tunnels, cutting major arteries linking Hong Kong island and the Kowloon Peninsula.
In Yuen Long district, a car rammed through a barricade, knocking down protesters.
Commuters struggled to get to work in the rush hour before Ms Lam spoke, with many rail and bus services suspended by activists who blocked trains from leaving stations, some by sitting in doorways, in the latest anti-government campaign.
Long lines of traffic snaked across Hong Kong island into the heart of the business centre and hundreds of people were stranded at the airport, where more than 200 flights were cancelled at one point. The Airport Express train service was temporarily suspended.
Members of the Hong Kong Disneyland Cast Members Union went on strike, as did many lifeguards, forcing authorities to close some beaches and swimming pools. - REUTERS