Hong Kong on fire
Protesters, cops in running battles
HONG KONG — Protesters hurled firebombs and set blazes Saturday across Hong Kong as they defied warnings to stay off the streets on a key pro-democracy anniversary — touching off some of the most dramatic clashes during 13 weeks of unrest over Beijing’s influence on the territory.
Demonstrators were pursued through the city, chased by riot police using the full arsenal of their tools: volleys of teargas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and huge numbers of officers wielding batons.
Water cannons sprayed streams tinted with blue dye in an apparent effort to mark protesters.
Protesters in turn set piles of rubbish and debris on fire, hoping to block advancing police.
Some protesters were armed with metal poles and hammers, and carried makeshift shields for protection.
At night, clashes moved from central Hong Kong to Kowloon, prompting the closure of five of the main subway lines.
Videos shared on social media and messaging apps showed commuters crying and hugging each other, as pools of blood and debris littered the ground after a clearance operation by riot police.
The protesters were marking an especially significant day in Hong Kong’s political history: Five years ago, Beijing announced a plan for limited democracy in the semi-autonomous territory, kicking off a 79-day occupation of city streets that invigorated a new generation of Hong Kong activists.
The intensity of Saturday’s scenes underscored how neither protesters nor Hong Kong authorities are holding back — pushing the city even further from a resolution to the months-long crisis.
A Hong Kong government statement Saturday appeared to quash among the most fundamental of protester demands: that of direct elections for Hong Kong’s leader and lawmakers.
A government spokesperson said that while universal suffrage is an “ultimate aim ... rashly embarking on political reform again will further polarize society, which is an irresponsible act.”
Oh my, these protests are really getting out of hand.