HONG KONG – Anti-government protesters are gearing up for a day of possible violent showdown with the police, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s administration and the protesters remaining in a deadlock as neither side is willing to strike a compromise.
Some groups of black-clad protesters with face masks started a planned disruption of the city’s subway services on a rainy Monday morning (Sept 2), in what is the 13th straight week of escalated protests, ahead of a planned two-day strike starting that day.
Adopting their mantra “be like water” to adapt to changes in circumstances, they gathered from 7.20am at various MTR stations including Kowloon Tong, Fortress Hill, Yau Ma Tei, Prince Edward and Mong Kok, with police officers on standby in various places to counter them.
To prevent trains from leaving the stations, protesters sandwiched tissue packets in between train doors or blocked commuters with umbrellas or their bodies.
As at 11am, several arrests had been reported by local news outlet HK01.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s No. 2 official Matthew Cheung would not rule out imposing an emergency law to help police contain protests that have led to increased violence since they began in June.
“We are reviewing comprehensively with an open attitude on what could be used,” Mr Cheung told reporters on Monday when asked whether the government would use an emergency law, adding that any actions would need to be “reasonable”.
He was repeating comments made last week by Mrs Lam about the sweeping colonial-era law, which allows for easier arrests, deportations, censorship and property seizures.
“Once calm’s restored, society’s back to normal, then we can go forward,” Mr Cheung said. “Law and order must be restored ASAP, without further ado. No nonsense. We are all yearning for law and order.”
Railway operator MTR has been a target of protesters, particularly after it was granted a court injunction to shut stations on protest days. Chinese state media had previously publicly criticised MTR for helping protesters get away after clashes with the police.
On Monday, the railway operator said all stations would open even though 12 stations were damaged on Sunday and 32 last Saturday. Some protesters had trashed Tung Chung station on Sunday, ripping apart the station turnstiles and breaking ticket machines.
This came after they choked travel routes to the airport by setting up barricades at Sky City Interchange and Chek Lap Kok South Road. They used water-filled barriers, rubbish dumpsters and luggage trolleys, and hurled objects at officers and Airport Authority staff.
Police have warned that the protesters could be in contempt of court, given the indefinite court order banning actions that would obstruct the proper use of the airport and passageways nearby. The protesters’ action on Sunday led to 25 flight cancellations, said the Airport Authority.
Separately, students in high schools marked the start of their new school year by boycotting classes on Monday, when the new school term began.
Some wore gas masks, helmets and goggles – the now essential kit carried by protesters during months of tear gas-enveloped rallies and clashes with police, AFP reported.