Hong Kong activists vow to ‘squeeze economy’ as city smolders

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Anti-government protesters clash with police outside the Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China on Nov.16, 2019. (Reuters)
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Pedestrians walk among bricks left by protesters near the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hung Hom, Hong Kong on Nov. 16, 2019. (AFP / Anthony Wallace)
Updated 17 November 2019

Hong Kong activists vow to ‘squeeze economy’ as city smolders

  • Huge fires blaze as protesters hurl petrol bombs near campus
  • City on edge as over five months of demonstrations rumble on

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police clashed Sunday with pro-democracy activists who vowed to “squeeze the economy” as the increasingly divided city reels from one of the worst weeks of violence in the months-long crisis.

Protests have swept the global financial hub since June as many in the city of 7.5 million people have vented fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.

A marked change in tactics last week to a “Blossom Everywhere” campaign of blockades and vandalism stretched the police force, shut down large chunks of Hong Kong’s train network and forced schools and shopping malls to close.

Students and protesters occupied several major universities around the city — the first time a movement characterized by its fluidity and unpredictability has coagulated in fixed locations.

A poster circulating on social media called for the “dawn action” to continue on Monday. “Get up early, directly target the regime, squeeze the economy to increase pressure,” it said.

The education bureau said schools will remain closed at the start of the week “for the sake of safety.”

The protests started against a now shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed to encompass wider issues such as perceived police brutality and calls for universal suffrage in the former British colony.

Two people have died this month as the violence worsened, while the financial hub has been pushed into a recession by the turmoil.

Hong Kong’s airport authority on Sunday said October traffic figures were down 13 percent on last year with 5.4 million passengers.

Sunday’s exchanges of tear gas and petrol bombs broke out as protesters occupying Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Kowloon — now a key battleground near the blocked Cross-Harbor Tunnel — fight to keeping their stranglehold on the major transport link.

The streets around Hung Hom were thick with smoke as fires burned between the lines of black-clad activists, known as “braves,” and police in full riot gear launched tear gas rounds.

Dozens of government supporters had gathered in the area earlier to clear barricades near the university campus, which was the scene of more violence overnight as officers clashed with protesters.

Around 80 to 100 middle-aged residents clapped and cheered as they moved debris from the road near the entrance to the tunnel that connects Kowloon with Hong Kong island — shut since Tuesday — before protesters in masks and their signature black t-shirts returned to rebuild the roadblock.

Television images showed activists throwing bricks at the residents to drive them away.

The Polytechnic University (PolyU) has become a flashpoint in the city rocked by a week of intensified violence and chaos. A message on the university’s Facebook page urged demonstrators to leave “immediately.”

“In view of safety concerns posed by possible violent unlawful activities conducted by protesters who are still occupying the PolyU campus, the University again urges all people on campus, including students and staff members, not to stay, and to leave as soon as possible,” the post said.

However, protesters in PolyU circulated a poster online encouraging people to join them.

“Whole city unite, defend PolyU, defend Cross-Harbor Tunnel,” it said.

A 23-year-old PolyU student called Kason said at the scene: “It will be good for us if we can have a base to keep our gear and have some rest at night before we set off for another fight in the morning.”

PLA soldiers — based in barracks near Hong Kong Baptist University — briefly came out on Saturday to help the clean-up after a week of disruption, a rare and highly symbolic troop movement unsolicited by the city’s embattled government.

The action saw scores of soldiers from the garrison, which is confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, with crewcuts and identical gym kits conduct a lightning-quick removal of bricks and debris near their base.

Chinese state media has repeatedly warned that troops could be deployed to quell an unprecedented crisis in the semi-autonomous city that has entered its sixth month.

Confirming the brief deployment, the PLA said it acted to open a debris-strewn road outside their Kowloon Tong barracks to traffic, winning “applause from residents” in the process.

The last time soldiers assisted in the city was in 2018 to clean up after a typhoon.

A spokesman for Hong Kong’s government said the troop movement had not been requested by city authorities but was instead a “voluntary community activity initiated by themselves.”


Arsenal’s Ozil condemns Muslim silence over Uighurs

Updated 1 min 31 sec ago

Arsenal’s Ozil condemns Muslim silence over Uighurs

  • China has faced growing international condemnation for setting up a vast network of camps in Xinjiang aimed at homogenizing the Uighur population
  • Turkey is home to an Uighur community and has regularly raised concerns about the situation in Xinjiang

ISTANBUL: Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, a German footballer of Turkish origin, on Friday expressed support for Uighurs in Xinjiang and criticized Muslim countries for their failure to speak up for them.
“Qur’ans are being burnt... Mosques are being shut down ... Muslim schools are being banned ... Religious scholars are being killed one by one ... Brothers are forcefully being sent to camps,” Ozil wrote in Turkish on his Twitter account.
“The Muslims are silent. Their voice is not heard,” he wrote on a background of a blue field with a white crescent moon, the flag of what Uighur separatists call East Turkestan.
China has faced growing international condemnation for setting up a vast network of camps in Xinjiang aimed at homogenizing the Uighur population to reflect China’s majority Han culture.
Rights groups and experts say more than one million Uighurs and people of other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities have been rounded up in the camps in the tightly-controlled region.
After initially denying the camps, China describes them as vocational schools aimed at dampening the allure of extremism and violence.
Turkey, which takes its name from Turkic people who migrated from central Asia, is home to an Uighur community and has regularly raised concerns about the situation in Xinjiang.
In his tweet, Ozil said Western states and media had kept the Uighurs issue on their agenda and added: “what will be remembered years later would not be the torture by the tyrants but the silence of their Muslim brothers.”
The 31-year-old footballer, sparked controversy last year when he was photographed with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, raising questions about his loyalty to Germany on the eve of their 2018 World Cup campaign.
Ozil later quit the national squad, accusing German football officials of racism. Erdogan was Ozil’s best man when the footballer was married in Istanbul this year.