Hong Kong protesters spread out in flash mobs, policeman slashed in the neck

Hong Kong protesters spread out in flash mobs, policeman slashed in the neck

Police chase a protester in Hong Kong on Oct 13, 2019 as flash mobs rally in multiple locations
Police chase a protester in Hong Kong on Oct 13, 2019 as flash mobs rally in multiple locations across the city. (Photo: AP/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong and riot police clashed in chaotic scenes around the city on Sunday (Oct 13) with police in full riot gear chasing protesters through crowds of horrified lunchtime shoppers.

Several rallies in shopping mall started peacefully around midday with a few hundred people at each chanting slogans such as "Free Hong Kong", but by late afternoon hardcore black-clad activists trashed shops and metro stations and erected road blocks around the city.

READ: Homemade bomb used for the first time during Hong Kong protests: Police

At around 5.30pm, a police officer was slashed in the neck by a protester near Kwun Tong MTR station, police said in a statement. 

"One rioter used a sharp-edged object to slash the officer’s neck from behind," it said. 

The injured officer was taken to hospital and two people were arrested.

Hong Kong riot police spent much of Sunday afternoon skirmishing with groups of masked protesters who held flashmob gatherings in multiple locations - although crowds were smaller and less violent than recent weekends.

Rallies erupted in multiple neighbourhoods with some protesters blocking roads, throwing objects onto train tracks as well as spraying graffiti and smashing the windows of some pro-China businesses.

Police made dozens of arrests as they rushed to intercept activists.

Hong Kong police detain a man for unknown reasons outside a shopping centre in the Tai Koo area
Hong Kong police detain a man for unknown reasons outside a shopping centre in the Tai Koo area on Oct 13, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

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In the district of Mongkok, riot police burst from an unmarked van that had screeched up to a blockade made of bamboo scaffolding poles and quickly chased down multiple protesters who were pinned to the ground and detained.

Later an AFP reporter in the same neighbourhood saw crowds of protesters beat a middle aged woman because she had helped police clear barricades.

The woman was struck with fists and umbrellas and also had her face smeared with mud.

Protesters sprayed paint on a woman's face for removing road barricades
Protesters sprayed paint on a woman's face for removing road barricades set up by them on Oct 13, 2019. (Photo: AP/Kin Cheung)

Protester mobs have increasingly turned on their ideological opponents in recent weeks - while Beijing loyalists have attacked activists throughout the summer.

In Tai Po district, officers charged into a mall where protesters had tagged a number of businesses with slogans. A nearby government office had also been vandalised.

Hong Kong police clear away a barricade left by protesters in the Tai Koo area
Hong Kong police clear away a barricade left by protesters in the Tai Koo area of Hong Kong on Oct 13, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

Hong Kong police clear away a barricade blocking the road left by protesters in the Kowloon area
Hong Kong police clear away a barricade blocking the road left by protesters in the Kowloon area of Hong Kong on Oct 13, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace)

Police said tear gas was fired in two districts while flash mobs and brief clashes were witnessed in at least four other locations.

In online forums used to organise the largely leaderless movement, protesters had given Sunday's rally the theme "blossom everywhere" encouraging activists to gather in malls across the city.

While the crowds were smaller, the cat and mouse tactics stretched police resources thin and were still able to bring chaos to parts of the city in what was a 19th consecutive weekend of protest.

A woman crosses the road in front of barricades set up by protesters in Tseung Kwan O
A woman crosses the road in front of barricades set up by protesters in the Tseung Kwan O area of Kowloon on Oct 13, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Anthony WALLACE)

Throughout the day, police found themselves berated and heckled by bystanders as they made arrests, highlighting how the force has become loathed among large parts of the population.

A group of 60- to 70-year-olds on Nathan Road, Kowloon, cheered the protesters, urging them to block the road and warning them when police were returning.

A group of 50 shoppers inside a mall faced off against riot police outside, chanting "Hong Kong police mafia". The shoppers cheered when police drove off.

"I'm furious," a female protester, who gave her surname Chan, told AFP. "I want the government to disband the entire police force."

Hong Kong flashmob shopping mall Oct 13 American flag masked protester
A man plays the saxophone as others holding the US flag during a flash mob rally inside a shopping mall in Sha Tin in Hong Kong on Oct 13, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)

People wear masks as they attend a flash mob rally inside a shopping mall in the Sha Tin district
People wear masks as they attend a flash mob rally inside a shopping mall in the Sha Tin district of Hong Kong on Oct 13, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)

READ: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

MONTHS OF PROTEST

Hong Kong has been shaken by four months of massive protests which have seen increasingly violent clashes between hardcore demonstrators and police, as well as regular transport disruptions.

The wave of protests in the international finance hub was sparked by opposition to a now-scrapped proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China, but has since morphed into a larger movement for democracy and police accountability.

A fire burns inside a store targeted by protesters at a shopping mall in Sha Tin
A fire burns inside a store targeted by protesters as people take part in a flash mob rally at a shopping mall in Sha Tin on Oct 13, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)

Protesters vandalise a subway entrance in Hong Kong on Oct 13, 2019
Protesters vandalise an MTR station entrance in Hong Kong on Oct 13, 2019. Graffiti was sprayed on the wall saying "Hong Kongers resist". (Photo: AP/Kin Cheung)

The city enjoys unique rights under the terms of its handover to China by Britain in 1997, including freedom of expression and an independent judiciary, but many believe these are under threat from an increasingly assertive Beijing.

Street battles between riot police and small groups of protesters have become a weekly occurrence, hammering the already struggling economy, spooking tourists and undermining Hong Kong's reputation for stability.

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The beginning of October saw a particularly fierce period of unrest with protesters upping their violence as Communist China celebrated its 70th birthday party.

Clashes further intensified after the city's leader invoked colonial-era emergency laws to ban face masks at protests.

Over the course of a week, protesters went on a vandalism spree, much of it targeting the city's subway network and pro-China businesses.

Police also increased their response, firing tear gas and rubber bullets with renewed ferocity. Two teenagers were wounded with live rounds during clashes with police.

Hong Kong vandalised MTR station Oct 13
People walk past graffiti on the entrance gate of the Sha Tin MTR station as people attend a flash mob rally nearby in Hong Kong on Oct 13, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)

Hong Kong police patrol Oct 13
A couple walks past Hong Kong police patrolling outside a shopping centre in the Tai Koo area of Hong Kong on Oct 13, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

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But the last few days have seen a comparatively calmer period.

Protesters are pushing for an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for the more than 2,500 people arrested and universal suffrage.

Beijing and city leader Carrie Lam have repeatedly rejected those demands.

Follow us on Telegram for the latest on Hong Kong: https://cna.asia/telegram 

Source: AFP/Reuters/jt

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