The first of two planned protests in Hong Kong on Sunday kicked off from a public park just hours after police said they arrested more than 20 people for unlawful assembly and other offences during the previous night’s violent demonstrations.
Light rain fell on the demonstrators who had parasols at the ready. Since Occupy Central protests in 2014, umbrellas have been a prime symbol of the city’s pro-democracy movements.
Hong Kong police said they arrested more than 20 people suspected of crimes including unlawful assembly and assault after confrontations between protesters and authorities continued deep into Saturday night.
Police said some violent protesters hurled petrol bombs, bricks, glass bottles and other objects at officers and refused to disperse at the pre-approved location on Saturday.
A peaceful pro-democracy rally devolved after protesters ignored police appeals to stick to the designated route, instead splintering off to various locations across Hong Kong’s northern Kowloon area. Some blocked streets and a major tunnel while others surrounded two different police stations, damaging vehicles parked inside one lot.
The demonstrators committed arson at various locations, at one point pushing a burning trash bin toward officers, police said in a Sunday statement. In a different neighborhood, according to police, protesters hurled fireworks and broke windows on residential buildings, threatening residents’ safety.
Residents in one neighborhood, however, banded together with protesters and surrounded a police station, yelling at riot police to leave.
Hong Kong has been rocked by nearly two months of mass demonstrations. They began as protests against a now-suspended extradition bill, but have since ballooned into broader calls for greater democratic rights and government accountability. A central demand of the largely leaderless movement is an independent investigation into alleged police abuse, including tactics used against protesters and the authorities’ response to a mob attack in a commuter rail station that left 44 people injured.
A second rally also was expected later Sunday ahead of a general strike on Monday.
A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China under the framework of “one country, two systems,” which promises the city certain democratic freedoms not afforded to the mainland. In recent years, Hong Kong residents have accused the Communist Party-ruled central government in Beijing of increasingly encroaching on their liberties. The arrests of Hong Kong booksellers and activists have fed these fears.
During the rally Saturday, some protesters scaled a flag pole, removed the Chinese flag and flung it into the iconic Victoria Harbour.
Former Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung offered 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($127,720) to members of the public who can provide information about the person who threw the flag into the water.
The act will provoke “enormous resentment from the entire nation,” said Leung, who was plagued by the same calls to resign that current leader Carrie Lam is now confronting.