Hong Kong protesters in standoff with police after tear gas breaks up rally

Hong Kong riot officers were seen wearing respirator masks while firing tear gas at protesters. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 October 2019

Hong Kong protesters in standoff with police after tear gas breaks up rally

  • Police deny accusations of brutality, saying they have shown restraint in life-threatening situations
  • The police had arrived earlier in the afternoon, warning protesters to leave the Tsim Sha Tsui district

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police fired volleys of tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters, many wearing banned face masks, who had converged on the Kowloon harbor-front tourist district on Sunday to denounce perceived police brutality over months of unrest.

There was a standoff as dusk began to fall, with protesters gathered on the pavements of the key shopping and hotel artery of Nathan Road, which police had earlier cleared in slow-moving cordons.

Riot police stood by outside the Chungking Mansions high-rise warren of South Asian restaurants and backpacker hostels, shields and batons at the ready, as protesters shouted colorful obscenities at them in Cantonese.

The police had arrived earlier in the afternoon, warning protesters to leave the Tsim Sha Tsui district, opposite the British colonial-era Peninsula Hotel.

The number of protesters had grown by the minute, streaming down Nathan Road to the water’s edge, facing the dramatic skyline of Hong Kong island opposite, but many fled after the tear gas and pepper spray were fired.

Ambulances took one man away on a stretcher. The cause of his wounds was not immediately clear.

Police detained some protesters as they gathered, many yelling profanities while police used loudhailers to warn others away. The crowds at the waterfront had largely dispersed after a couple of hours and headed north up Nathan Road, where many luxury brand shops closed their shutters.

The rallying cry of the protesters was also for the protection of “Muslims, journalists and the people.”

A police water cannon fired bursts of blue-dyed water at a small group of people outside a Nathan Road mosque during protests last weekend, drawing criticism from some in the Muslim community. There was a large crowd of police outside the mosque on Sunday.

’NO TO TOTALITARIANISM’

Billy, 26, a salesman, who did not want to give his full name, said he turned out on Sunday because he was angry at the spraying of the mosque.

“Hong Kong people, regardless of our religion ... we come here to say no to our totalitarian government,” he told Reuters, adding he wanted to protest peacefully. “I have a little bit of fear ... because our police sometimes they are uncontrollable and they threaten the safety of our people.”

Cindy Chu, 65, a retired nurse, said the police used to be a force for good.

“It’s so simple. They are disturbing the Hong Kong people,” she said. “And what for? What authority do they have to do that? It’s Hong Kong, not China.”

Chu said she was there to support journalists. When asked if she really wanted to give her full name, she said: “I am not afraid. If Hong Kong people are afraid of things like that, then the ending is not good.”

She too was wearing a face mask, banned under a colonial-era law re-introduced by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam this month.

Pro-democracy activists have in recent weeks attacked police with petrol bombs and rocks and slashed one officer in the neck with a knife. Police have responded with tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets and occasional live rounds, wounding several protesters and a few journalists.

Police deny accusations of brutality, saying they have shown restraint in life-threatening situations. There had been a week-long lull in clashes.

Protesters are angry about what they see as creeping Chinese interference in Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula intended to guarantee freedoms that are not enjoyed on the mainland.

China denies meddling. It has accused foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of stirring up trouble.


Indonesian president ‘honored’ to have UAE street named after him

Updated 22 October 2020

Indonesian president ‘honored’ to have UAE street named after him

  • Abu Dhabi’s Al-Ma’arid Street renamed President Joko Widodo Street

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday said it was “an honor” for him and his country that a street in the UAE capital had been named after him.

Al-Ma’arid Street, one of Abu Dhabi’s key roads, was on Monday renamed President Joko Widodo Street during a ceremony that coincided with the first anniversary of the Indonesian leader’s inauguration for a second term in office.

Writing on social media, Widodo said: “It is a recognition and an honor, not only for me, but for Indonesia.” He also expressed hope that the two countries’ relations would be “stronger, mutually strengthening, and beneficial for the people of the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.”

Indonesia’s ambassador to the UAE, Husin Bagis, told Arab News: “The initiative to rename the street after President Joko Widodo came from His Highness (Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan), who also presided over the street renaming ceremony on the spot.”

The envoy said that the street was near to the future location of the Indonesian Embassy compound, which was currently under construction.

According to UAE news agency WAM, the crown prince has also directed officials to build a mosque named after Widodo, in Abu Dhabi’s Diplomatic Area, in recognition of the Indonesian president’s close friendship with the UAE and his efforts to strengthen the relationship.

Indonesia-UAE relations have grown closer since Widodo’s visit to Abu Dhabi in January, during which he secured investment projects worth $22.9 billion in what has officially been described as the biggest trade deal in the country’s history. The visit was to reciprocate the crown prince’s trip to Indonesia in July 2019.

Recent cooperation agreements between the two countries have included plans for the construction of a mosque on a plot of land in Widodo’s hometown of Solo in Central Java.

The mosque will be a replica of Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and serve as an Islamic center offering training for clerics. A groundbreaking ceremony is slated to take place in December.

Widodo is the latest Indonesian leader to be celebrated through an honorific street name in a foreign country. In Rabat, Morocco’s capital, Avenue Sukarno was named after Indonesia’s first president, while Mohammed Hatta Street in Haarlem, the Netherlands, recognizes the Southeast Asian country’s first vice president. Sukarno and Hatta are considered the fathers of Indonesia’s independence.

The name of the country’s third president, B. J. Habibie, appears on a bridge in Dili, the capital of East Timor, in honor of his decision to hold a referendum there which allowed East Timor to secede from Indonesia.