HONG KONG: Hong Kong anti-government protesters crowded shopping malls in running clashes with police on Sunday (Nov 3), with several suffering bloody wounds a day after parts of the Chinese-ruled city became a battleground after five months of unrest.
A human chain in Cityplaza, in the eastern suburb of Taikoo Shing, turned into a bloody face-to-face conflict with police, running up and down escalators where families with young children had been window shopping just minutes before and watching skating on the ice rink.
Police said protesters had vandalised a restaurant after a peaceful chanting of slogans, in the 22nd straight weekend of unrest.
A brutal fight took place outside the shopping mall, with live broadcasts showing Andrew Chiu, a local pro-democracy councillor, with much of one ear severed. Democratic Party lawmaker James To told reporters the knifeman had bitten off part of Chiu’s ear and slashed other people.
He said the other wounded were in more serious condition than Chiu who was seen on TV holding the piece of his ear in a plastic bag with bloody hands.
A second man was seen unconscious in a growing pool of blood as bystanders desperately tried to stem wounds to his back.
Another man in a grey T-shirt had been beaten bloody by the crowd who accused him of carrying out the attack and wounding multiple people.
RTHK news, which filmed the brawl, reported that the attacker was a Mandarin speaker – the predominant language on the Chinese mainland – and had been arguing with his victims about politics before he pulled out a knife.
He bit off Chiu’s ear when the councillor tried to tackle him after the assault. A knife could also be seen lying on the floor outside the mall where the fight took place.
Hospital authorities said five people were wounded, four men and one woman. Two victims were in a critical condition, two were serious and one was stable.
Police revised down their wounded toll from six to five people and said three people were arrested, without detailing whether the alleged knife attacker was among those counted as injured or arrested.
Police made several arrests as protesters shouted “black police!”, a reference to their perceived brutality. The standoff lasted into the night, with residents jeering police from the roadside and balconies of nearby apartments, chanting “leave now” and more colourful Cantonese expletives.
Police fired tear gas, outside the East Hotel in Taikoo Shing, to try to break up the crowds. They then left.
“These police are not what they used to be,” said Julie, 24, giving police the middle finger. “They come in here and push us around. It is not right.”
Police fired pepper spray at reporters when they got too close. One journalist was arrested.
“This is out of control. This was a peaceful protest. And these people are just local residents, we live around here,” said Desmond Fong, 28, who works in marketing. He was out shopping for sneakers when the protest erupted.
Taikoo Shing is an office and high-rise apartment development dating back to the 1970s, with the newer office, bar and restaurant district of Quarry Bay next door. Police said they were investigating the knife attacks.
There were also scuffles, confrontations and vandalism in malls in the New Territories towns of Tai Po, Tuen Mun and Sha Tin, where police fired pepper spray as protesters hurled abuse.
Protesters in Hong Kong, which Britain returned to Chinese rule in 1997, battled police across the main island on Saturday, furious at Communist Party leaders in Beijing and perceived Chinese meddling with Hong Kong’s freedoms, which China denies.
They have vandalised Hong Kong businesses seen as being pro-China and in July daubed China’s Liaison Office, the key symbol of Chinese sovereignty, with graffiti.
Cleaners swept up broken glass at the Hong Kong office of China’s official Xinhua news agency on Sunday, one of the buildings vandalised on the 22nd straight weekend of protests when activists hurled petrol bombs and set fire to metro stations.
Xinhua condemned the attack by what it said were “barbaric thugs” who broke doors and security systems and threw fire and paint bombs into the lobby.
“The practice of the black rioters once again shows that ‘stopping the violence and restoring order’ is Hong Kong’s most important and urgent task at present,” a spokesperson for Xinhua said in a Facebook post.
Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and a water cannon at protesters on Saturday and early Sunday as the violence spilled from Hong Kong island across the harbour to Kowloon.
One of the protesters’ key demands is an independent probe into perceived police brutality. There have been several injuries, including a protester shot in the chest and a policeman slashed in the neck, but no deaths since the protests began in June.
Hong Kong returned to China under a “one country, two systems” formula which guarantees its freedoms for 50 years. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has a garrison in Hong Kong but troops have remained in barracks since the protests began.
Protesters last month targeted a PLA barracks with lasers prompting troops to hoist a banner warning they could be arrested. Senior PLA officers have said violence will not be tolerated.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam will fly to China this week to discuss how to make it easier for Hong Kong people to live and work on the mainland, her office said on Sunday.
Lam, despised by protesters, will arrive in Beijing on Tuesday for a meeting the next day of the “leading group” for developing the Greater Bay Area of southern China.
The group has already met twice, “endorsing a number of measures to facilitate Hong Kong people to develop, work and reside in the mainland cities of the Greater Bay Area, as well as strengthen the convenient flow of people and goods”, her office said.
The idea was to attract “high-end talent” from Hong Kong with tax breaks and encourage “innovation and entrepreneurship” from young people in Hong Kong and Macau.
Lam has promoted the Greater Bay Area as a way to provide jobs for people in Hong Kong and ease social tension.
The megalopolis of the Greater Bay Area is made up of nine mainland cities, including Guangzhou, Zhuhai and Shenzhen, and the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, a former Portuguese-run enclave that returned to China in 1999.
Follow us on Telegram for the latest on Hong Kong: https://cna.asia/telegram