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Hong Kong's public safety 'jeopardised', says government after violent weekend clashes

Hong Kong's public safety 'jeopardised', says government after violent weekend clashes

People walk past a vandalised China Construction Bank (Asia) outlet after clashes occured with police and protesters in Hong Kong, Oct 6, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Nicolas Asfouri)

HONG KONG: Public safety in Hong Kong has been jeopardised with public order "being pushed to the verge of a very dangerous situation", said the government on Monday (Oct 7).

Scores of protesters were arrested in violent clashes overnight that drew the first warning from the Chinese military.  

Tens of thousands of protesters marched peacefully through the centre of the Chinese-ruled city on Sunday, wearing face masks in defiance of colonial-era emergency powers that threaten them with a maximum of one year in prison for hiding their faces.

READ: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announces ban on face masks

READ: First Hong Kongers appear in court for defying mask ban

Riot police detain a protester during an anti-government rally in central Hong Kong, China, Oct 6, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Jorge Silva)

However, police fired tear gas and used baton charges in an attempt to disperse protesters across the Asian financial hub, and the rallies deteriorated into running clashes as night fell

Protesters were arrested and bussed away under the new emergency laws, which came into effect on Friday night, after some of the most violent clashes in four months of protests virtually shut the city down on Saturday.


Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, warned that people could be killed.

"Before long, unless we are very, very lucky, people are going to get killed, people are going to be shot," Patten told Sky News. "The idea that with public order policing you send police forces out with live ammunition is preposterous."

READ: Hong Kong journalist hit by petrol bomb recovering in hospital

Further protests have been planned in different districts on Monday evening. 

Hong Kong's rail operator MTR said on Monday that, due to "serious vandalism", most of the stations in the network were temporarily closed. That included typically busy stations such as Admiralty and Wan Chai, around the city's bar district.

A protester walks past a burning barrier outside Mong Kok MTR station during a demonstration in Hong Kong on Oct 6, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu) An anti-government protester walks past a burning barrier outside Mongkok MTR station during a demonstration following a government's ban on face masks under emergency law, in Hong Kong, China October 6, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Riot police detain a protester during an anti-government rally in central Hong Kong, China, Oct 6, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Jorge Silva)

MTR's announcement followed an unprecedented closure on Saturday and minimal operations on Sunday, which largely paralysed much of the city.

The entire network, which typically carries about 5 million passengers a day, will shut at 6pm on Monday, more than four hours earlier than normal, to allow for repairs, it said.

Grocery stores that had shut early on Sunday were mostly open by Monday morning. Many businesses and stores have had to close repeatedly during the four months of protests and Hong Kong now faces its first recession in a decade.

READ: Hong Kong police warn protesters against 'brutal attacks' on citizens

Hong Kong police posted a video on Twitter of people being beaten up during violent protests over the weekend. The above are screenshots from the video of the victims.

Hong Kong's embattled leader Carrie Lam has said the face mask ban was necessary to end the violence by militant activists. But the move has been criticised by human rights groups and the United Nations, and has sparked more violent protests.

"She would have to be crazy to be making these decisions on her own without being pressured into them. The face mask business, absolutely madness," said Patten, who handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997.

"I fear for the future, unless Carrie Lam actually intervenes and understands the importance of dialogue," he added.

READ: Video of mainlander assaulted in Hong Kong sparks outrage in China

China's Hong Kong military garrison warned protesters on Sunday they could be arrested for targeting its barracks with laser lights.

Chinese military personnel raised a yellow flag with the arrest warning written in large letters, a Reuters witness said, the first direct interaction between the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and protesters.

A few hundred protesters shone laser lights on the barracks walls, the first time they have targeted PLA facilities, and troops in fatigues on the roof shone spotlights at protesters in return. The protesters eventually dispersed.

What started as opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition Bill has grown into a movement against what is seen as Beijing's increasing grip on the city, undermining its "one country, two systems" status promised when Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997.

China dismisses such accusations, saying foreign governments, including Britain and the United States, have fanned anti-China sentiment.

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

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