|Protesters smash up a branch of the Bank of China in the Tseung Kwan O residential neighbourhood of Kowloon on October 7, 2019. AFP-Yonhap|
By Tony Cheung
The demonstrations began peacefully at several malls in the late afternoon, after a university student and an unemployed woman became the first to be charged under the mask ban targeting anti-government protesters. Both were granted bail.
Since Friday, radical protesters have gone on a rampaging spree, vandalising banks and stores associated with mainland China, trashing government buildings and train stations, targeting police by lobbing significantly bigger petrol bombs, and engaging in bloody fist fights.
The gatherings on Monday were relatively smaller and less violent, but as night fell, protesters showed up in Mong Kok and Tseung Kwan O, with some setting up roadblocks in another confrontation with riot police, who fired tear gas and non-lethal rounds. Many were arrested.
Into the evening, hundreds continued to block roads in Tai Koo and Mong Kok, with a march starting towards Yau Ma Tei. Sixteen train stations were vandalised, including Tseung Kwan O, Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin, Sha Tin Wai and City One, and five Light Rail stops.
Elsewhere, demonstrators had heeded online calls and went to at least 10 shopping centres in districts such as Diamond Hill, Sha Tin, Kwai Fong, Tai Koo, Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun. The turnouts ranged from 100 to a few hundreds.
A man was punched in Sha Tin after he unfurled a Chinese flag in New Town Plaza mall, and said: "Hong Kong is a Chinese place." He boarded a bus after leaving the mall, but protesters stopped the vehicle from leaving, as another man punched his face. Riot police eventually arrived to escort the victim away.
With Monday marking the Chung Yeung Festival, protesters also gathered outside exit B1 of Prince Edward MTR station ― near Mong Kok Police Station, a flashpoint ― to burn paper offerings.
|A riot police officer points a gun toward anti-government protesters during a demonstration in the Tseung Kwan O residential area in Kowloon, Hong Kong, China, October 7, 2019. Reuters-Yonhap|
Prince Edward station was the scene of clashes between officers and protesters on August 31, which sparked rumours that people had died under police brutality. The force, Hospital Authority and fire service have all repeatedly debunked the accusations.
Among those who went to Prince Edward was Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, who said he now believed people had died in the station.
On a footbridge connecting Kwai Fong MTR station to the Metroplaza mall, two banners were unfurled to criticise the city's embattled police and Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
"Residents cover their face while Lam covers her conscience," the words on one banner stated.
While Causeway Bay ― a protest hotspot over the weekend ― was mostly peaceful on Monday, a large banner was unfurled urging shoppers not to purchase anything amid a "no-buy day".
After a partial reopening on Sunday, train services were running at just 39 of the railway's 94 stations on Monday morning. The MTR Corporation said it shut down its entire network at 6pm so the damage wrought by vandals could be fixed.
The company warned some heavily damaged stations may not be able to resume services in a short period of time. Even if some could be opened on Tuesday, the train service would be closed earlier than usual to allow more time for repair work. The city's rail giant has been targeted by radical protesters who accuse it of colluding with police and bowing to Beijing.
The pair bailed on Monday, City University student Ng Lung-ping, 18, and Choi Yuk-wan, 38, were accused of taking part in an unlawful assembly outside Kai Tin Shopping Centre in Lam Tin.
|Riot police officers pour water over a protester as he is detained during an anti-government protest in front of a police station in Mong Kok district, Hong Kong, China October 7, 2019. Reuters-Yonhap|
They allegedly used a facial covering that was likely to prevent identification without lawful authority or reasonable excuse in the early hours of Saturday. At Eastern Court, acting principal magistrate Cheung Kit-yee adjourned the case to November 18, pending further police inquiry.
Cheung granted Ng and Choi cash bail of HK$300 (US$38) and HK$1,000 respectively, but imposed a travel ban and curfew on the pair. She also ordered them to report to police once a week.
Meanwhile, the Chinese foreign ministry's commissioner in Hong Kong has dismissed remarks made by the city's last colonial governor Chris Patten, who said Lam "would have to be crazy to be making these decisions", such as enacting the anti-mask law.
In a statement, a spokesman for the commissioner accused Patten of ignoring public opinion in Hong Kong. "Britain introduced an anti-mask law as early as 1723 … It reintroduced such a law to tackle protests and disturbances in 2011. Were these crazy decisions too?" the spokesman said.
On a radio programme, pro-Beijing politician Ip Kwok-him, an adviser in Lam's de facto cabinet, the Executive Council, was asked if the government would invoke emergency powers to shut down the city's internet connection with the outside world. Ip said the government would not rule out using any means to stop violence.
Earlier in the day, about 400 people started to gather in New Town Plaza in Sha Tin at 3pm, singing protest anthems Glory to Hong Kong and Do You Hear the People Sing. Slogans such as "Reclaim Hong Kong; revolution of our times" and "Stand with Hong Kong" were also chanted, echoing throughout the mall.
Most of the shops in New Town Plaza began closing at around 5pm.
A 35-year-old investment banker, who only gave his surname as Chan, said he joined the gathering because the government refused to listen to Hongkongers.
|Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam walks past a barrier to meet petitioners before a weekly Executive Council meeting in Hong Kong, China, October 8, 2019. Reuters-Yonhap|
"The oppression by the Communist Party as well as the recent use of emergency laws and the mask ban is negatively affecting freedom in Hong Kong," he said, referring to the colonial-era ordinance which Lam invoked to impose the ban without the legislature's prior approval.
Tourism industry worker Anka Tam, 61, also said she came to support young people in their fight for democracy.
"I will continue to come to the gatherings. I live nearby, so I have to pass by New Town Plaza on the way home. I don't think they have disrupted my everyday life. I avoid taking the MTR, and will take the bus when I head out," she said.
At Plaza Hollywood in Diamond Hill, more than 100 angry demonstrators and residents gathered at an atrium, chanting slogans such as "Hongkongers, resist" and "Everyone has a right to wear a mask", while singing songs of protest against the anti-mask law.
A Form Three student surnamed Lee, who wore a surgical mask and led some of the slogan-chanting, said she defied the new law because "wearing a mask is a human right, which should never be restricted by law".
She accused police of still wearing masks during operations but intimidating reporters for similar wear when they were covering protests, calling the move "unacceptable".
Many shops, including restaurants at Plaza Hollywood remained open throughout Monday, but at an optical store, no customers were seen by 6pm, as the MTR closed its services.
A staff member at the store said sales had dropped from about 20 to 30 purchases on normal days to just four to five transactions, blaming it on the MTR closures.
Online, a YouTube video of an old woman confronting protesters and removing road blocks on Gloucester Road in Wan Chai on Saturday had received more than 50,000 views. In the 10-minute clip, she shouts at demonstrators: "Why don't you just do something good? What's the benefit of blocking people's way? Explain!"
The incident was also reported on some mainland media websites such as Sina.