Hong Kong reopens after violent weekend of clashes and protests

Police on Monday expressed ‘severe condemnation’ after a mostly peaceful protest spiraled into violence in some of the Chinese territory’s key districts. (AFP)
Updated 16 September 2019

Hong Kong reopens after violent weekend of clashes and protests

  • Thousands of anti-government protesters engaged in cat-and-mouse tactics with police on Sunday
  • Police issued a statement expressing ‘severe condemnation’ after the peaceful protest spiraled into violence

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s businesses and underground rail stations re-opened as usual on Monday morning, after a chaotic Sunday that saw police fire water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who blocked roads and threw petrol bombs outside government headquarters.
Thousands of anti-government protesters, many clad in black masks, caps and shades to obscure their identity, had raced through the streets, engaged in cat-and-mouse tactics with police, setting street fires and blocking roads in the heart of the former British colony where many key business districts are located.
Authorities moved quickly to douse the fires and police fired volleys of tear gas to disperse them, including in the bustling shopping and tourist district of Causeway Bay.
Police issued a statement early on Monday expressing “severe condemnation” after what began as a mostly peaceful protest had spiraled into violence in some of the Chinese territory’s key business, shopping and tourist districts.
Around 20 “radical protesters” had attacked two police officers on Sunday evening, hurling petrol bombs, bricks, and threatening the safety of the officers, the statement said.
The demonstrations were the latest in over three months of sometimes violent protests, with protesters angered by what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in Hong Kong’s affairs despite promises by Beijing to grant the city wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms denied in mainland China.
The initial trigger for the protests was a contentious extradition bill, now withdrawn, that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial.
The protests have since broadened into other demands including universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into allegations of excessive force by the police.
At least 18 people were injured, three of them seriously, during Sunday’s violence, according to the Hospital Authority.
Nearly 1,400 people have been arrested since the protests started in June, but police gave no update on the number arrested over the weekend.
The protests have weighed on the city’s economy as it faces its first recession in a decade, with tourist arrivals plunging 40 percent in August amid some disruptions at the city’s international airport.
By Sunday evening, the running battles between anti-government protesters and police had spilled into street brawls between rival groups in the districts of Fortress Hill and North Point further east on Hong Kong island, where men in white T-shirts, believed to be pro-Beijing supporters, some wielding hammers, rods and knives, clashed with anti-government activists.
On a street close to North Point, home to a large pro-Beijing community, a Reuters witness saw one man in a white T-shirt sprawled on the ground with head wounds.
Hong Kong media reported that groups of pro-Beijing supporters had attacked journalists.
Police eventually intervened and sealed off some roads to try to restore order, and they were seen taking away several men and women from an office run by a pro-Beijing association.
Democratic lawmaker Ted Hui was arrested for allegedly obstructing the police, according to his Democratic Party’s Facebook page, as he tried to mediate on the streets in North Point.


India blocks SMS services in Kashmir after trucker killed

Updated 15 October 2019

India blocks SMS services in Kashmir after trucker killed

  • Security sources said the decision to cut text messaging services was taken to reduce the ability of militants to communicate
  • Indian authorities had only restored call and text services for mobile phones

SRINAGAR: Text messaging services were blocked in Indian Kashmir just hours after being restored when a truck driver was killed by suspected militants and his vehicle set ablaze, authorities said Tuesday.
Separately Indian officials said that a 24-year-old woman died in the latest exchange of artillery fire with Pakistan over their de-facto border dividing the blood-soaked Himalayan region.
Security sources said the decision to cut text messaging services was taken to reduce the ability of militants to communicate.
Indian authorities had only restored call and text services for mobile phones on Monday, following a 72-day blackout in the restive northern territory imposed after New Delhi scrapped the region's semi-autonomous status.
The seven million-plus people of the Kashmir Valley — the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule — are still cut off from the Internet, however.
Authorities said SMS services were cut again on Monday night following the attack on the driver of a truck carrying apples in Shopian.
Residents said two masked gunmen told the driver to use his truck to block the road, but it skidded and got stuck.
“The gunmen then fired at the truck and set it on fire,” a witness told AFP.
Apples are a sensitive issue in Kashmir, which exports vast quantities of the fruit to markets across India.
Many orchard owners say they are refusing to harvest this year to protest against the government’s move to scrap Kashmir’s autonomy.
Indian authorities say that militants — backed by arch-rival Pakistan — have been intimidating farmers and businessmen.
The latest death from Pakistani artillery fire over the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir brings the number of fatalities on the Indian side to three in the past four days, the Press Trust of India reported.
Two Indian soldiers were killed in two separate incidents on Friday and Sunday, PTI said. It was unclear if there were any fatalities from Indian fire on the Pakistani side.
Also on Tuesday, police arrested 13 women activists in Srinagar after they staged a protest calling for civil liberties and the release of detainees.
The women, wearing black armbands, were arrested for “breaching the peace” and for a contravening a ban in place since early August on public gatherings of more than four people, police said.
They included the sister and daughter of former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, one of several hundred local politicians, lawyers and others in custody since early August, mostly without charge.
Abdullah, 81, was formally arrested in mid-September under the highly contentious Public Safety Act (PSA) that allows someone to be held for up to two years without charge, and which has been used widely in Kashmir in recent years.
Rebels have been fighting for three decades some 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, demanding independence or to join Pakistan which also controls part of the region and, like India, claims it in full.