HONG KONG — Police officers in Hong Kong on Saturday fired tear gas and clashed with protesters in a central shopping district, capping 21 straight weeks of antigovernment demonstrations that have convulsed this international financial hub and helped to sink it into a recession.
In scenes that have become part of the new normal in Hong Kong, sections of the Causeway Bay shopping district and, later, the Wan Chai neighborhood were enveloped in shrouds of tear gas as riot police battled with protesters, who wore masks in defiance of a ban on face coverings enacted last month. Later in the afternoon, police shut down two rallies in the Central district that had received official authorization, citing the clashes elsewhere.
Several thousand protesters turned out for the rally at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, which had been billed as a campaign event for Hong Kong’s upcoming district council elections, after the police rejected the organizers’ initial application to hold a demonstration. (Police permission is not typically required for election events.)
Here’s the latest on the Hong Kong protests.
Chaos Returns to Streets of Hong Kong
The mood was tense from the beginning, as police quickly declared the Victoria Park rally an unauthorized assembly and tried to disperse protesters using tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons. Later, as the police continued their dispersal efforts, some protesters responded by throwing petroleum bombs, vandalizing shops seen as sympathetic to the Chinese government, spraying graffiti and building barricades on streets.
By 6 p.m., dozens of protesters had been detained, adding to the more than 2,800 who have been arrested since the movement began. Two pro-democracy election candidates, Osman Cheng and Richard Chan, were seen being taken away by the police.
Court Blocks Online Messages That ‘Incite Violence’
A Hong Kong court on Friday granted a government request to temporarily bar anyone from “disseminating, circulating, publishing or republishing” information that “promotes, encourages or incites the use or threat of violence.”
The order specifically cited Telegram, a messaging app, and LIHKG, a Reddit-like messaging forum. Both are widely used by demonstrators to organize protests.
The ban came one week after another court barred the public from harassing police officers, including taking their photos while on duty or posting their personal details online.
Beijing Signals Renewed Push for ‘Patriotic Education’
Chinese Communist Party leaders who met in Beijing during the past week signaled that they were exploring a tougher approach to the unrest in Hong Kong. Mainland officials renewed a call for “patriotic education” in the territory, aimed at fostering greater loyalty to China.
Shen Chunyao, the head of a central government committee that oversees policy in Hong Kong, also indicated that Beijing might revise how the top official in Hong Kong, called the chief executive, is appointed.
Candidates Seek to Convert Public Anger Into Votes
The demonstration on Saturday in Victoria Park was an unusual combination of protest and election rally. Candidates for district council carried banners and wore sashes bearing their names; they talked with potential voters as thousands of people dressed in black milled about.
“There are many ways to struggle and fight back against the government, from inside the institutions and outside the institutions,” said Sam Cheung, 26, a university tutor and district council candidate from the Tuen Mun area in northern Hong Kong.
The elections, scheduled for Nov. 24, will test the protest movement’s ability to take advantage of its momentum to gain institutional influence. That effort suffered a blow this past week when a government official barred Joshua Wong, a prominent activist, from running in the district council race.
Elaine Yu contributed reporting from Hong Kong, and Christopher Buckley from Beijing.