Hong Kong protesters continued to clash with police on both sides of the harbour on Saturday night, with a firefighter and a first aider among those caught in the crossfire.
Earlier in the day, police fired tear gas in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to disperse peaceful protesters, and cut short two authorised rallies in Central.
By nightfall, clashes had spread to Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and Central, as well as to Tsim Sha Tsui and Jordan across the harbour.
According to footage from Taiwan’s China Television Company, a fireman in Central got into a heated argument with a group of riot police. The firefighter accused the officers of hitting his fire engine with a projectile, but police said they needed to disperse protesters.
7/ Another teargas canister mistakenly hit a firetruck. Looking for an explanation, even the fireman was dragged and beaten!? A witnessing journalist was abused and threatened too. pic.twitter.com/QC9BiH0k6k
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) November 2, 2019
As the exchange became a shouting match, officers shoved the fireman against a wall. Police then used pepper spray against the journalists filming the incident and pushed them away from the scene.
It is unclear whether the firefighter was arrested. HKFP has reached out to the police for comment.
At around 6pm, a volunteer first aider was photographed with severe burns on his back, after he was apparently hit with a tear gas canister near Times Square in Causeway Bay.
Student journalists from the City Broadcasting Channel reported that they saw “fire” on the first aider’s back after police fired tear gas. The man went into shock and lost consciousness, before being rushed to Ruttonjee Hospital.
Meanwhile, police detained dozens of arrestees in an alley next to Southorn Playground for at least two hours, before taking them away on a coach bus.
Over in Kowloon, several arrests were made in Jordan as police pushed northwards to clear the streets following a peaceful, authorised rally.
A black-clad couple in masks attempt to flee as police reopen a cordon.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) November 2, 2019
Police warned onlookers and hecklers that they may use force and tear gas as they pushed northwards.
Attack on Xinhua condemned
The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and the News Executives Association have condemned the attack on the Xinhua New Agency office in Wan Chai earlier on Saturday.
Protesters shattered the glass windows and doors on the ground floor of the building, and spray-painted slogans on the building’s facade. Before the 1997 Handover, Xinhua’s headquarters was seen as Beijing’s de facto embassy in the city.
In a statement, a Xinhua spokesperson expressed “strong condemnation against the savage behaviors of rioters vandalising and setting fire” to its Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau office building in Hong Kong.
The HKJA condemned “any violence or destructive acts targeting the media,” and called for a stop to the violence and full investigation by the police.
Saturday’s unrest marks the 22nd weekend of protest, first sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition law bill. In a statement, the government said it “strongly condemns rioters for going on a rampage” in districts such as Causeway Bay, Wan Chai, Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, saying they “seriously breached the public peace.”
“[Disregarding] public safety, the rioters hurled petrol bombs, set fires, threw bricks, placed nails on roads as well as deliberately vandalised and burnt shops, a media organisation and MTR stations. With no regard to law and order, these acts are outrageous and deserve the strongest condemnation,” a spokesperson said.
Though the extradition bill was axed, demonstrators are demanding an independent probe into police behaviour, amnesty for those arrested, universal suffrage and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.”
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