It was just a typical weekend in Hong Kong: tear gas, water cannons, petrol bombs and few signs that protests now in their fourth month would fizzle out anytime soon.
Both demonstrators and police on Sunday appeared to get more aggressive earlier on than during the previous 14 weekends of protests. Demonstrators set fire to entrances to Wan Chai subway station, while others threw petrol bombs at the central government headquarters in Admiralty.
Riot police used tear gas, water cannons, blue dye and pepper spray to clear the crowds. The violent scenes disrupted traffic and prompted major shops to close, including the Sogo department store in the Causeway Bay shopping district. Separately, police broke up fights between demonstrators and white-shirted residents who used chairs and umbrellas as weapons.
The tens of thousands of people on the streets chanting “Five Demands, Not One Less” showed that leader Carrie Lam’s move to withdraw a bill allowing extraditions to China hasn’t been enough to end the now-ubiquitous scenes of violence in Hong Kong.
And they may only get more intense in the run-up to October 1, when China celebrates 70 years of Communist Party rule.
“The momentum for this protest activity is still going,” said Peter, a 30-year-old who joined the protests.
“We are asking for five demands, not one less.”
Remaining demands include an independent investigation into police’s use of force; an end to using the term “riot” to describe the protesters; an amnesty for those charged during previous demonstrations; and the ability to pick and vote on their leaders.
The protracted political chaos is taking a toll on Hong Kong’s economy. The international airport handled 6 million passengers in August, down 12.4 percent from a year earlier, according to figures published by the Airport Authority on Sunday.