Hong Kong Braces For New Protests

Hong Kong is bracing Sunday for more anti-government protests with tens of thousands of people expected to participate. 

One rally, however, has already been staged. This one, the French news agency (AFP) reports, was held to honor Hong Kong’s police officers who have often been criticized for their actions at the demonstrations. 

“If the whole world spits on you, we as family members will not,” one woman, who has a relative on the force, told the officers.  

Reuters is reporting that police arrested 29 people overnight after officers sprayed tear gas Saturday to break up a crowd.  

Hong Kong protests turned violent Saturday for the first time in nearly two weeks, as hundreds of demonstrators dressed in black and armed with baseball bats and bamboo poles hurled petrol bombs and bricks at police.

Hong Kong police brandished batons and fired volleys of tear gas to disperse the protesters, who had set up makeshift street barricades using bamboo scaffolding outside a police station and a nearby shopping mall.

Meanwhile, China freed a British consulate worker, Simon Cheng, whose detention served to ratchet up tensions. He was detained for 15 days in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, for allegedly violating public security management regulations, according to police there.

Authorities say Cheng’s legal rights were upheld, claiming he had confessed to the charges for which he was held. This is a standard rejoinder from Chinese police, despite the fact Cheng was not given a chance to defend himself in court. Cheng’s family said on Facebook he had now returned to Hong Kong. 

Protesters had been demanding his release for the past several days, and Britain said it welcomed the news.

Four MTR subway stations were shut down in Kwun Tong, a densely populated area of the Chinese-ruled city, though thousands of protesters filled the streets anyway, many carrying umbrellas as protection from the sun. “Give me democracy or give me death” was spray-painted on a wall.

As the rallies entered their third month, protesters also cut down a “smart lamppost” because they feared it was being used for surveillance by Chinese authorities. 

Hong Kong’s government maintained, however, the lamppost only collected data on traffic, weather and air quality.

Last week, Hong Kong’s airport was forced to close when protesters occupied terminals. China called the behavior “near-terrorist acts” and some protesters later issued an apology. 

Hong Kong police said Friday said the city’s high court extended an order restricting protests at the airport.

“Any person who unlawfully or willfully obstructs or interferes with the normal operation of the airport” is liable to face criminal charges, said Foo Yat-ting, the senior superintendent of Hong Kong Police Force’s Kowloon East Region.

Hong Kong’s Airport Authority also published a half-page notice in newspapers urging people to “love Hong Kong” and not to block the airport.

Saturday’s demonstration in Hong Kong is the latest in a weekslong movement that began with calls to stop an extradition bill, which has now been scrapped, and has expanded to include demands for full democracy.  

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