Splits in Hong Kong protest movement revealed by highway blockade
HONG KONG –
Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong partially unblocked a key highway on Friday only to then block it again during evening rush hour. This exposed splits in a movement that has been largely leaderless in months of violent unrest.
Running along the side of the leafy campus of Chinese University, the Tolo Highway was blocked this week by protesters who clashed with police, threw debris and petrol bombs onto the road linking the largely rural New Territories with the Kowloon peninsula to the South.
The campus was transformed into a fortress, stocked with petrol bombs and bows and arrows, amid some of the worst violence in the former British colony has seen in decades.
Rocky Tuan, President of Chinese University said in an open letter that all outsiders must leave. “Universities are places to study, not to resolve political disputes or even a battlefield to create weapons and use force,” he said. “If the university cannot continue to fulfil its basic mission and tasks, we must seek the assistance of relevant government departments to lift the current crisis.”
The highway closed was again on Friday evening after its partial reopening. The Cross-Harbour Tunnel where protesters have practiced firing bows and arrows and throwing petrol bombs in a half-empty swimming pool remained shut. Protesters and students, who have barricaded at least five campuses, were burning makeshift roadblocks at Chinese University.
There were only 200 protesters on Friday as compared to 1,000 protesters two days ago. There were clashes with the police too in the Kowloon district of Mong Kok, which is one of the most densely populated areas on Earth. The week has seen a marked intensification of the violence.
Police have kept their distance from the campuses for over two days, saying both sides should cool off, but observers are cautious of what will happen if and when they move in.
China and Hong Kong condemned an attack in London on Thursday by a “violent mob” on the Justice Secretary of Hong Kong. This was the first direct altercation between demonstrators and a government minister.
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng was in London to promote Hong Kong as a “dispute resolution and deal-making hub”. She was targeted by a group of protesters who shouted “murderer” and “shameful”.
The Hong Kong government mentioned that Cheng suffered “serious bodily harm” but gave no details on the same. The Chinese Embassy in Britain quoted that Cheng was “besieged and attacked by dozens of anti-China and pro-independence activists”.
The retail and tourism sectors have taken a blow owing to the demonstrations, with widespread destructions and no end in sight to the ongoing violence and vandalism. Hong Kong sank into a recession for the first time in a decade in the third quarter as confirmed by government data on Friday, with its economy shrinking by 3.2% from the previous quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis.
The PLA has remained in the barracks since 1997 but China has warned that any attempt at independence will be crushed.
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field.