HK protesters stage mall rallies taunting police
HONG KONG: Pro-democracy activists and riot police in Hong Kong clashed again in chaotic scenes yesterday, with police in full riot gear chasing protesters through crowds of lunchtime shoppers.
Several rallies in shopping malls started peacefully around midday with a few hundred people at each venue chanting slogans such as "Free Hong Kong", but by afternoon, hardcore black-clad activists trashed shops and metro stations and erected road blocks around the city. Police made numerous arrests and deployed tear gas to disperse protesters, saying they used "minimum force".
Television footage showed shoppers screaming and some injured when police charged inside a mall.
The young protesters, many wearing face masks to shield their identity, were often supported by shoppers.
In one mall, a group of riot police, shields out front and pepper spray canisters in hand, were forced to retreat by chanting shoppers until they were outside of the mall.
In another incident, a group of 50 shoppers inside a mall faced off against riot police outside, chanting "Hong Kong police mafia".
The shoppers cheered when the police drove off.
'WE SHOULD RESIST'
"Hong Kong used to be a prosperous city and now she has become a police state. Hong Kong is my home. We should protect her. We should resist," said a 70-year-old who gave only his last name, Hui.
He was part of a group of 60- to 70-year-olds in Nathan Road, Kowloon, cheering the protesters, urging them to block the road and warning them when police were returning.
Sporadic small protest rallies often now consist of face mask-wearing school children, office workers, shoppers and the elderly.
Hardcore activists who clash with police tend to emerge later in the day. - REUTERS