HONG Kong: Tension flickered across Hong Kong Saturday as riot cops squared off with protesters near a police station in a working-class neighborhood, as an uneasy peace lasting several days threatened to give way.
Thousands of demonstrators, who earlier formed a human chain as a sign of solidarity, marched through the industrial Kwun Tong area, where they were blocked by dozens of riot police with shields and batons.
Protesters pulled together a barricade of traffic barriers and bamboo construction poles, while shouting at the rank of police.
Hong Kong’s police force have become the target of the protesters’ ire for their perceived heavy-handed response to the months of demonstrations.
Antipathy has soared towards the police, who have used baton charges, rubber bullets and tear gas against hardcore protesters, but are also accused of beating peaceful demonstrators.
The city has for now pulled back from what appeared to be a nosedive into violence, with the last serious clashes taking place a week and a half ago.
But tension rippled across Saturday’s march, where a number of frontline radical demonstrators known as “braves” had gathered.
“I’ve never seen Hong Kong in such a situation,” 65-year-old Dee Cheung told the Agence France-Presse.
“The youngsters who come out have put their future at stake… they are doing this for Hong Kong.
“There might be some things we don’t agree with, like the braves’who tend to charge. But let’s think about why they do that?”
Protests started against a proposed law that would have allowed extradition to China, but have bled into wider calls for democracy and police accountability in the semi-autonomous city.
In related development, officials of China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government said the nonstop disruptive and violent acts of some radicals had exerted negative influence on the economy and urged residents not to participate in such activities that impede peace and order of Hong Kong.
As an international aviation hub, Hong Kong’s aviation, tourism, trade and logistic sectors have suffered serious damage, Frank Chan, secretary for transport and housing of the HKSAR government, said at a press conference.
The Hong Kong International Airport handled around 4.16 million passengers from August 51 to 21, down 540,000 from the same period a year ago, and its cargo volume was also down 14 percent, Chan said.
Amid repeated calls on social media for further disturbances at the airport in the coming weekend, the High Court of the HKSAR extended an interim injunction to restrain persons from unlawfully and willfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of the airport.
Chan called on residents to abide by the injunction and not to disturb other travelers.
Edward Yau, secretary for commerce and economic development of the HKSAR government, said the number of visitors to Hong Kong during August 15 to 20 dropped by 49.6 percent year on year, the largest decline in recent years, and the hotel industry was also hit hard as the occupancy rate of some hotels dropped by more than half in August, in contrast to a 90-percent average rate for the whole sector a year ago.