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.


Philippines, Vietnam brace for tropical storm Saudel

Updated 23 min 12 sec ago

Philippines, Vietnam brace for tropical storm Saudel

  • Floods and mudslides during October have killed at least 105 people in central Vietnam
  • The floods had compounded the suffering of people already struggling from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic

HANOI/MANILA: Authorities in Vietnam and the Philippines braced on Tuesday for a tropical storm that could bring flooding and landslides in both countries, as the death toll in Vietnam from weeks of adverse weather rose to 105, with dozens still missing.
Rescue teams and disaster officials were on standby and preparing equipment in the Philippines, awaiting the arrival on the main island of Luzon later on Tuesday of tropical storm Saudel, which could bring heavy rains and cause mudslides.
Moderate early rains triggered some minor landslides on Tuesday, blocking several roads.
Vietnam’s weather agency is expecting Saudel to arrive in its central region on Saturday, bringing more intense rains, risking exacerbating its worst flooding in years.
Floods and mudslides during October have killed at least 105 people in central Vietnam, about a third of those soldiers, with 27 people missing, among those 15 construction workers buried under one of several deadly mudslides last week.
At least 178,000 homes, nearly 7,000 hectares (17,297 acres) of crops have been impacted and 700,000 farm animals killed, official data showed.
Vietnam’s current coffee crop harvest and bean quality should not be hurt by continuous rains, traders said, while its main rice growing region will be unaffected.
State television showed people sitting on the roofs waiting for aid from rescuers in Quang Binh province, where floods have blocked roads and cut power.
“I have not eaten since yesterday,” an elderly woman told VTV from her roof. “We have nothing, no food, no phone. Nothing.”
The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) in a statement said the floods had compounded the suffering of people already struggling from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
“These floods are the last straw and will push millions of people further toward the brink of poverty,” Christopher Rassi, Director of the Office of the Secretary General.