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.


US accuses Hezbollah of storing explosive chemical in Europe

Updated 18 September 2020

US accuses Hezbollah of storing explosive chemical in Europe

  • Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound commonly used as a fertilizer, but it can be used to make explosives
  • It can also be dangerous in storage, as demonstrated by the huge explosion last month in Beirut

WASHINGTON: Militant group Hezbollah has stored chemicals that can be used to make explosives in several European countries, a senior State Department official said Thursday as he appealed to countries in Europe and elsewhere to impose bans on the organization.
Hezbollah operatives have moved ammonium nitrate from Belgium to France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland in recent years and are suspected to still be storing the material throughout Europe, said Nathan Sales, the State Department coordinator for counter-terrorism.
Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound commonly used as a fertilizer, but it can be used to make explosives. It can also be dangerous in storage, as demonstrated by the huge explosion last month in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
Sales, without offering evidence, said the U.S. believes that Iran-backed Hezbollah has since 2012 transported ammonium nitrate around Europe in first aid kits with cold packs that contain the compound. The United States believes these supplies are still in place throughout Europe, possibly in Greece, Italy and Spain.
“Why would Hezbollah stockpile ammonium nitrate on European soil?" he said. “The answer is clear: Hezbollah put these weapons in place so it could conduct major terrorist attacks whenever it or its masters in Tehran deemed necessary."
Sales made the remarks in an online forum hosted by the American Jewish Committee, which has called upon more countries to ban Hezbollah and its operations.
The US has designated Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997, but some countries distinguish between the organization's military wing and the political wing.
The EU lists Iran-backed Hezbollah’s military wing as a banned terrorist group, but not its political wing, which has been part of Lebanese governments in recent years. Some individual countries, including Germany and the UK, have outlawed the group in its entirety. Sales called on more countries to do the same.
Hezbollah is a “unitary organization that cannot be subdivided into a military and so-called political wing," he said. Without a full ban, the group can still raise money and recruit operatives. “Hezbollah is one organization," he said. "It is a terrorist organization.”