Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up anti-government protest

Hong Kong police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march, saying previous marches have turned violent. (AFP)
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Updated 19 January 2020

Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up anti-government protest

  • Hong Kong police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march
  • The protests had lost some of their intensity in recent weeks

HONG KONG: Police fired tear gas on Sunday to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters who gathered in a central Hong Kong park, but later spilled onto the streets in violation of police orders.
Out in numbers before the demonstration began, police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march. Several units of police in riot gear were seen chasing protesters and several arrests were made.
A water cannon truck drove on central streets, flanked by an armored jeep, but was not used.
Organizers initially applied for a permit for a march, but police only agreed to a static rally in the park, saying previous marches have turned violent.
Once protesters spilled onto the streets, some of them, wearing all-black clothing, barricaded the roads with umbrellas and street furniture, dug up bricks from the pavement and smashed traffic lights.
The “Universal Siege Against Communism” demonstration was the latest in a relentless series of protests against the government since June, when Hong Kongers took to the streets to voice their anger over a now-withdrawn extradition bill.
The protests, which have since broadened to include demands for universal suffrage and an independent investigation into police handling of the demonstrations, had lost some of their intensity in recent weeks.
In an apparent new tactic, police have been showing up ahead of time in riot gear, with officers conducting “stop and search” operations near expected demonstrations.
“Everyone understands that there’s a risk of stop-and-search or mass arrests. I appreciate Hong Kong people still come out courageously, despite the risk,” said organizer Ventus Lau.
On Jan 1, a march of tens of thousands of people ended with police firing tear gas to disperse crowds.
The gathering in the park was initially relaxed, with many families with children listening to speeches by activists.
In one corner, a group of volunteers set up a stand where people could leave messages on red cards for the lunar new year to be sent to those who have been arrested. One read: “Hong Kongers won’t give up. The future belongs to the youth”.
Authorities in Hong Kong have arrested more than 7,000 people, many on charges of rioting that can carry jail terms of up to 10 years. It is unclear how many are still in custody.
Anger has grown over the months due to perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip over the city, which was handed over to China by Britain in 1997 in a deal that ensured it enjoyed liberties unavailable in the mainland.
Beijing denies meddling and blames the West for fomenting unrest.


Philippines, Vietnam brace for tropical storm Saudel

Updated 20 October 2020

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.