Activists Hurl Bricks, Police Use Water Cannon: Hong Kong Update

(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong police fired a water cannon at brick-hurling protesters after tens of thousands crammed into a park and surrounding streets to mark the fifth anniversary of 2014’s pro-democracy Occupy demonstrations.

The authorized rally, in the 17th week of protests, comes just days before China celebrates 70 years of Communist Party rule. Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Thursday took responsibility for the “entire unrest” that has rocked the city since June in a bid to calm tensions. Even largely peaceful gatherings have descended into chaos in recent weeks as smaller groups of hard-core protesters threw petrol bombs at police, who fired volleys of tear gas.

Here’s the latest (all times local):

Stop and search operations (10:30 p.m.)

Police conducted stop-and-search operations at various places across the city, challenging people on foot and on public transportation. Police stopped buses entering the Cross Harbour Tunnel and also carried out searches in Causeway Bay and Wan Chai, where passengers were forced off buses to be checked.

Government responds (9 p.m.)

The government said that universal suffrage for “selection of the chief executive and electing all members of the Legislative Council is enshrined as an ultimate aim in the Basic Law.” In response to demands for political reform, the government will move forward in line with the Basic law and China’s interpretation of it, it said in a statement.

“To achieve this aim, the community needs to engage in dialogues, premised on the legal basis and under a peaceful atmosphere with mutual trust, with a view to narrowing differences and attaining a consensus agreeable to all sides,” it said.

Water cannon deployed (8:45 p.m.)

Police deployed a water cannon, shooting blue dye, after clashes with protesters. A group of people hurled bricks at officers and blocked off roads, police said in a statement.

Protesters praised (8 p.m.)

Organizers of the rally and speakers at the event praised the protest movement and the people’s solidarity in opposing Lam’s extradition bill.

Joshua Wong, a prominent leader of the Occupy Movement, said the demonstrations had put Hong Kong in the international spotlight and was the reason the U.S. is considering passing a human rights act to monitor the level of autonomy in the city. He said there was no turning back for the movement.

Civil Human Rights Front, the organizer of the rally, said in a statement that five years after the Umbrella Movement fought for universal suffrage, nothing has been achieved and protest leaders have been jailed. This year, a new generation of activists inspired almost one third of the city’s population to take to the streets and force Lam into withdrawing the bill. Still, the protesters must continue to fight for their five demands, it said.

Rally starts (7 p.m.)

Thousands of people packed Tamar Park in Admiralty to mark the fifth year since the Occupy protests that were centered in the area. The protesters sang, waved their mobile phones and shone lasers as they waited for the guest speakers.

Protesters took over roads leading to the venue and police said they used “minimum force” to disperse some who had charged at officers’ cordons.

Red alert at government building (6:40 p.m.)

The Legislative Council Secretariat issued a red alert, requiring everybody at the lawmakers’ building in Admiralty to evacuate for safety reasons.

Riot police guard stations (6:30 p.m.)

Some access points into train stations near the site of Saturday’s rally were shut, and rail operator MTR Corp. said service could be disrupted, as riot police stood guard outside exits to the facilities.

Thousands of people poured into the area for the rally to commemorate the Occupy protest and massed at Tamar Park in Admiralty.

Lennon Wall link (4 p.m.)

Protesters created so-called Lennon Walls in Victoria Park in attempt to link them through the district of Wan Chai to Admiralty, where the Occupy protest was staged in 2014.

In Admiralty, people plastered walls with posters of Mao Zedong, saying “Revolution is no crime, to rebel is justified” — a popular slogan used by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. China’s President Xi Jinping’s image covered the floor in some areas.

Wong to stand in elections (11:30 a.m.)

Joshua Wong announced that he’ll run in the city’s district council elections in November. He told a press conference in Hong Kong on Saturday that if the government disqualifies him from taking part, it will face more protests and international pressure.

Xi approved bill withdrawal: SCMP (7 a.m.)

Hong Kong’s Lam asked Chinese President Xi Jinping for approval before withdrawing her controversial extradition bill, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unidentified people.

Lam said at the time that it was her decision to withdraw the proposed law to try to break the political deadlock and enter into some form of dialogue with the public, and that China respected her reasons for doing so, the Post reported. The plan was sent to Xi’s office for approval before it was announced on Sept. 4, the newspaper cited a person close to the government as saying.

Restore rule of law: lawyers (Saturday 7 a.m.)

A group of 339 local lawyers called on the government and the people of Hong Kong to uphold and protect the rule of law in a full-page advertisement published in Sing Tao newspaper on Saturday.

The lawyers, who didn’t provide names but listing their identity numbers, condemned all violence and called for respect for people’s safety, rights and freedoms, and for public property. They said Hong Kong must restore its place as a “shining beacon in the region for safety, personal freedoms and economic opportunity for persons of all backgrounds.”

They said the statement was issued in their personal capacities.

Hundreds Gather at Edinburgh Place (8:02 p.m.)

A crowd of protesters gathered calmly at Edinburgh Place in the city center in solidarity with people who were detained during previous protests and held at the city’s San Uk Ling Holding Center. Police officials said at a daily press conference earlier in the day that they hadn’t used the center to detain protesters since Sept. 2 — just after one of the worst weekends of violence in the city — because of “speculation and groundless accusations.” It held 75 protesters at the peak of its use.

Protesters had complained about the remote location and poor phone signal that made it hard for them to contact lawyers. Police said Friday that they understood this.

Police Ban Oct. 1 Protest (6:38 p.m.)

Hong Kong police issued a ban on an Oct. 1 gathering and march organized by the Civil Human Rights Front, the group’s co-vice convener Bonnie Leung said. The decision was based on events during earlier protests involving serious injuries to protesters, police officers and journalists caused by vandalism, arson, road blockages and Molotov cocktails thrown by some demonstrators, according to the letter of objection issued to CHRF. Police also said the protest locations were close to “high-risk buildings,” including subway stations and government offices, that could be subject to violence.

Arrest tally (4:15 p.m.)

Almost 1,600 people had been arrested since the movement kicked off on June 9, police said at a daily briefing on Friday.

Hundreds of demonstrators have found themselves ensnared by Hong Kong’s legal system during a summer of unrest, and securing amnesty for them has become one of the movement’s major demands. But so far, the mass detentions have done little to keep protesters off the streets.

Weekend Events

A global anti-totalitarianism march to the central government headquarters has been organized for Sunday, along with a rally by secondary school students.

–With assistance from Melissa Cheok and Shawna Kwan.

To contact the reporters on this story: Natalie Lung in Hong Kong at flung6@bloomberg.net;Aaron Mc Nicholas in Hong Kong at amcnicholas2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Stanley James

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