Police Battle Protesters As Strike Paralyses Hong Kong

HONG KONG, Aug 5 (Reuters) – Police fired tear gas at protesters in multiple elements of Hong Kong on Monday after an over-all strike hit transportation and the city’s Beijing-backed leader warned its wealth was at risk. The protests surpassed shows of dissent in scale and strength earlier, apparently stoked by Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam’s refusal once more to meet any of the protesters’ needs, while warning of the “extremely dangerous situation”.

What started several months ago as demonstrations over an extradition bill that could have let people be delivered to mainland China for trial have become into a much broader backlash against the city government and its political masters in Beijing. Amid extensive disruptions to trains and traffic, thousands of demonstrators fanned out across Hong Kong, spreading pockets of activism to the majority of its main three locations: Hong Kong island, Kowloon, and the brand-new Territories.

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Police stations were besieged and highways occupied. In the evening, several men armed with sticks attempted to assault the black-clad protesters in the North Point area. Riot law enforcement used tear gas in districts including Wong Tai Sin, Tin Shui Wai, Tai Po, and Admiralty near to the city’s federal government headquarters. Speaking to the press for the very first time in fourteen days, Lam continued to be defiant, rejecting phone calls to resign, condemning the assault and saying the government would be resolute. She warned that the protests were placing Hong Kong on the path of no return and had hurt its overall economy.

Lam, flanked by some, however, not all senior users of her administration. Lam said, discussing the territory’s administrative system since 1997, when it was handed to China back. Demonstrators fear China is gradually encroaching on the island’s cherished autonomy. Jay Leung, 20, a university or college student who joined a protest, dismissing Lam’s words as a waste of time.

Demonstrators clogged key roads, including three tunnels, cutting major arteries linking Hong Kong island and the Kowloon Peninsula. In Yuen Long region, a car rammed through a barricade, knocking down protesters. Commuters battled to get to work, numerous rail and bus services suspended by activists who obstructed trains from leaving channels, some by sitting in doorways.

Long lines of traffic snaked across Hong Kong island into the heart of the business center and hundreds of people were stranded at the airport terminal, where more than 200 plane tickets were canceled at one point. Many businesses shut, and employees stayed home. Mark Schmidt, 49, a restaurant manager who shut on Monday. In an upmarket shopping mall in Sha Tin, scores of shops were shuttered, including clothing retailer H&M as well as luxury brands Chanel and Dior. Many stores in the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay were closed for part of the day as well as businesses close to the protests.

Members of the Hong Kong Disneyland Cast Members Union continued to strike, as did many lifeguards, forcing authorities to close some seashores and swimming pools. Police, who some have accused of using extreme force, said the situation was spiraling out of control. Authorities said 420 people have been imprisoned on the protests since June 9, while police have terminated 1,000 rounds of rip gas and about 160 silicone bullets.

The protesters’ demands include a complete drawback of the extradition expenses and an independent inquiry into the federal government handling of the crisis. With tourist amounts falling and hotel occupancy rates are slumping, the protests are piling pressure on the struggling overall economy. IHS Markit’s July Purchasing Managers’ Index for Hong Kong demonstrated private sector business activity decreased to its least expensive level in a decade, also weighed down by the Sino-U.S. Raymond Yeung, main China economist at ANZ. The benchmark Hang up Seng Index closed 2 down.9 percent, since January dropping to its lowest level.

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