A protester in Hong Kong on Wednesday gestures as demonstrators take part in a pro-democracy march in Hong Kong on Wednesday. (AP)
Violence broke out during the peaceful march as masses of citizens pressed authorities for further concessions
- Published 2.01.20, 1:43 AM
A march drawing tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong on New Year’s Day spiralled into chaotic scenes as police fired several rounds of tear gas and water cannon at crowds including families before halting the event.
The violence broke out during the largely peaceful march as masses of citizens pressed authorities for further concessions in the Chinese-ruled city.
In the Wanchai bar district, some protesters had spray-painted graffiti and smashed cash machines in an HSBC bank branch when riot police moved in, pepper-spraying crowds in a tense face-off. Tear gas was then fired into the crowds, making some children cry.
The protesters, some with gas masks and clad in black, regrouped and formed their own lines as police blocked roads to prevent large crowds from completing the march as night fell.
The atmosphere grew tense in several districts on Hong Kong island, as hundreds of protesters dug in, forming road blocks, setting fires and throwing a few petrol bombs. Human chains formed down roads to help ferry supplies to people on the frontlines, including umbrellas and bricks.
Protesters have directed their ire at global banking group HSBC alleging a link between the arrest of four members of a group that raised funds to support the protesters.
A bronze lion at the bank’s headquarters was daubed with red paint and scorched by a fire. A bank spokesman said: “We strongly condemn the acts of vandalism and damage directed at our premises repeatedly in the last few days. We believe these are unjustified.”
Earlier in the day, under grey clouds, citizens young and old, many dressed in black and some masked, carried signs such as “Freedom is not free” before setting off.
“It’s hard to utter ‘Happy New Year’ because Hong Kong people are not happy,” said a man named Tung, who was walking with his two-year-old son, mother and niece.