Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong paralyzed parts of the semi-autonomous financial hub for a third day Wednesday – as a senior police official declared that the territory was on the “brink of a total breakdown.”
Rampaging residents stepped up a “blossom everywhere” campaign of roadblocks and vandalism that has crippled Hong Kong and ignited some of the worst violence during five months of unrest.
About 1,000 protesters wearing now-banned face masks blocked roads in the heart of the central business district and hurled bricks onto roads lined with some of the world’s most expensive real estate and luxury stores, according to Reuters.
“It’s now 1989 4th June,” was scrawled on the windows of a Georgio Armani store, a reference to the crackdown by Chinese troops on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
Riot police tried to disperse the crowds near the stock exchange, wrestling some people to the ground and bashing others with batons.
Senior Police Superintendent Kong Wing-heun warned that protesters were carrying out “insane acts” and that “our society has been pushed to the brink of a total breakdown.”
The demonstrators are incensed about what they view as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula instituted when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
China, which denies interfering, has blamed Western countries, including the US and Britain, for stirring up trouble.
The new phase in the crisis has forced the closure of schools, shopping malls, key arterial routes and large chunks of the vital train network, which is used daily by more than half of the city’s 7.5 million inhabitants.
Highlighting the mounting security fears, mainland Chinese students began fleeing Hong Kong on buses and boats back across the border, according to police and universities.
The unrest was part of the largely leaderless protest movement’s nascent strategy branded “blossom everywhere,” in which small groups target as many parts of the territory as possible to wreak maximum disruption and stretch police resources.
“The rioters’ intention is to bring Hong Kong into a total breakdown. No excuse, no political motives can justify or glory this madness,” police spokesman John Tse told reporters Wednesday.
On Monday, a police officer shot an unarmed 21-year-old protester, leaving him in a critical condition in only the third confirmed instance police had hit someone with live rounds since the unrest began in June.
The shooting, broadcast live on Facebook, sparked fury among protesters about what they say is excessive police violence.
Police said 142 people had been arrested since Tuesday, bringing the total number of arrests to more than 4,000. Health officials said 81 people had been injured since Monday, with two in serious condition.
The youngest was 10 months old but the cause of the infant’s injuries was not known.
“It is very painful to watch my city turn into this. Look at everyone, how angry they are,” said Alexandra, a 42-year-old insurance executive who had been trying to get to work.
“We all want to return to normal, but how can the government do that if they don’t listen to what Hong Kongers have been asking for,” she said.
With Post wires
Published at Wed, 13 Nov 2019 06:07:00 +0000