Report of riot charges prompts sudden protest in Hong Kong
Protesters block subway train doors during morning rush hour, flock to police station
Protesters clashed with police again in Hong Kong on Tuesday night after reports that some of their detained colleagues would be charged with the relatively serious charge of rioting.
Several hundred protesters mobilized in the streets outside a police station after Hong Kong media said 44 people had been arrested on riot charges stemming from a Sunday night demonstration.
Hong Kong police said in a statement Tuesday that the rioters set up roadblocks, broke fences, damaged street signs and attacked police officers with bricks and iron rods.
One of the accused is a 33-year-old man who was also charged with assaulting a police officer, police said. The accused rioters and a 24-year-old man charged with weapons possession will appear in court on Wednesday.
A total of 49 people, including 32 men and 17 women between the ages of 16 and 41, had initially been arrested from the scene. Hong Kong police said it "will not rule out the possibility of further arrest" as it investigates the four others released temporarily or out on bail.
Live video streamed by Hong Kong media showed protesters chanting slogans and throwing eggs at the Kwai Chung police station. Police used pepper spray to try to disperse them.
Fireworks were set off just before 3 a.m. local time Wednesday, injuring six men near another police station. Five people were taken to a nearby hospital for their injuries and the sixth man declined medical treatment at the scene, police said.
Video footage on social media appeared to show a car driving by the Tin Shui Wai police station as fireworks flared where protesters were gathered.
Police said they are investigating.
The unannounced protest capped another day of unrest. During the morning rush hour, commuters argued with demonstrators who blocked subway train doors in their continuing movement to demand greater accountability from the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's government.
Service was delayed and partially suspended on the Island and Kwun Tong lines, said subway operator MTR (Mass Transit Railway). It cited "a number of train door obstructions" as well as someone activating a safety device at a platform on the Kwun Tong line.
The action targeted rush-hour traffic at several stations. MTR responded by providing minibuses to replace delayed trains and normal service was restored by around noon.
Gang attacks ignored, says protester
Protester Ken Chan said he wanted MTR officials to explain why they allegedly failed to take action on July 21 when a large gang of men in white shirts brutally beat dozens of people inside a train station as a massive protest was winding down. Hong Kong's government and the central authorities in Beijing have blamed protesters for sparking the confrontation.
"How could they let the triads in white attack people on the platform randomly, including the elderly and children in the train?" said Chan, 32, using the common term for members of organized crime groups. "Some of the elderly got smacked on their heads, but [MTR staff] turned a blind eye to it."
Lorraine Lee, 26, said the subway disruption was an attempt to remind people of the government's alleged failure to deal with social, economic and political injustices.
"The government has not been addressing the problems in our society," Lee said. "That is why now Hong Kongers have no choice but to use different 'creative' approaches to remind people what is happening in Hong Kong."
AP video showed heated exchanges at Tiu Keng Leng station, where a crowd of protesters and commuters filled the platform and a stopped train.
The disruption is part of a pro-democracy movement that has seen hundreds of thousands take to the streets this summer for marches and rallies. The protests have shaken the government in Hong Kong and raised concerns in Beijing. Hong Kong is part of China but has a fair degree of autonomy in local affairs.
Posts on Twitter showed long lines of commuters waiting for free shuttle buses provided by MTR to other subway stops. Protesters conducted a similar action to block trains last week.
Activists began protesting in early June for the government to withdraw an extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their legal rights would be threatened. The government suspended the bill, but the protests have expanded to calls for democracy and government accountability.
On Sunday, police repeatedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets to drive back protesters blocking Hong Kong streets with road signs and umbrellas.
The protesters have demanded an independent inquiry into police conduct at the demonstrations, which they say has been abusive.
Beijing opposes any foreign intervention
China on Monday accused unidentified foreign actors of encouraging the protests. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Tuesday the central government "resolutely opposes any foreign forces' attempts to intervene in Hong Kong affairs."
"We have the determination and ability to safeguard peace and stability in Hong Kong," Hua said at a daily briefing.
Last Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped the protests in Hong Kong would remain peaceful and China would show restraint.
Asked in an interview with Bloomberg television whether he was concerned about the possibility of China's military intervening in Hong Kong, Pompeo said: "We need China to do the right thing. We hope that they'll do that. We hope that the protests will remain peaceful. We think that's important."
Hua responded to those comments during a news briefing on Tuesday, saying Pompeo "might think that violent activities in Hong Kong are reasonable because after all, this is the creation of the U.S."
With files from Reuters and CBC News