Tear gas was fired across Hong Kong on Monday as one by one peaceful rallies in seven city districts turned into clashes between police and protester.
It was the third consecutive day of violent protest in Hong Kong, a former British colony that is now a special administrative region of China.
“The Asian financial hub has been in a state of political crisis since anti-government protests began on June 9, when the government attempted to pass a law allowing for criminal extradition to mainland China.
“By 5:30 p.m (0930 GMT), police had arrested 82 people, in the largest arrest of protesters in a single day since demonstrations began. Clashes also occurred between protesters and other residents. “
Earlier, a car drove into a crowd of protesters in Yuen Long, a district that had seen a number of violent clashes and attacks, attempted to drive through protesters’ barricades, according to footage shared on social media.
“In a separate incident in Shatin, a taxi also appeared to purposefully crash into protesters’ barricades, according to video.
“The rallies were held in support of a city-wide anti-government strike called for Monday that saw 27,000 people takes annual leave or sick days, according to strike facilitator Save Hong Kong.
“The demonstrations were a strong rebuttal of leader Carrie Lam, who on Monday tagged the protests as largely the work of violent fringe groups who were about to push Hong Kong on the verge of a very dangerous situation.“
Lam said the situation was now threatening the former British colony’s status as a semi-autonomous city within China under an arrangement known as “one country two systems“.
“Those ulterior motives are going to destroy Hong Kong and risk ‘one country, two systems’ to proceed with what they call revolution,” Lam said.
She, however, maintained her longstanding point that protesters simply misunderstood the extradition bill and were using it as an excuse to unleash violence on the city.
“Protests began on June 9, against a now suspended bill that would have allowed for the extradition of suspected criminals to mainland China.
“They have since escalated into an outpouring of anger against the Hong Kong government and Lam herself, with hundreds of thousands taking part in marches, flash mobs, and large scale demonstrations.
“In recent weeks, protests have turned increasingly violent with residents throwing bricks, rocks and other items at police stations while others have lit trash cans on fire.
“Police in return have arrested 420 people since the protests began, a spokeswoman said on Monday.
“Some 160 rubber bullets and 1,000 rounds of tear gas grenades have been fired by officers in the course of two months,“she said.
Lam had so far failed to meet any of the protesters’ demands including that she stepped down and form an independent commission to investigate police brutality, whose actions she had continued to defend to the media.
However, she had not responded directly to a question from dpa about the participation of thousands of civil servants in an unprecedented protest, saying they had the right to express themselves.
“Protesters have continued with their protests, saying until Lam addresses their concerns, with many balking at her characterisation of hundreds of thousands of residents as violent.
“We are trying to tell the world that there are still people like us who want to express themselves in a peaceful rational way to tell the government we strongly disagree,“ Twiggy Lee said.
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