Police have declined Saturday's protest request in Yuen Long, but protesters came up with different excuses to justify the assembly.
The News Lens
By: Laignee Barron and Abhishyant Kidangoor
HONG KONG — Police fired round after round of tear gas to disperse tens of thousands of demonstrators who defied an official ban and flooded Hong Kong’s residential town of Yuen Long Saturday, bringing their months-long pro-democracy protests to the doorstep of a divided suburb that was the site of bloody mob violence against activists early this week.
The ordinarily quiet cluster of villages near the China border became a flashpoint in the city’s spiraling crisis on July 21 after a mob of suspected gangsters attacked demonstrators, journalists, and passersby at a mass transit station in the most barbaric episode of protest-related violence since the unrest began in early June. Police were accused of turning a blind eye as they ran amok, a charge officials denied.
Dressed mainly in black shirts, yellow hard hats and face masks, the de facto uniform of the city’s protest movement, a massive crowd turned out to vent their anger over perceived police inaction during the assault, carried out in two waves of violence over the course of two hours. Organizers of Saturday’s march resorted to satire to evade the official ban; flyers advertised “full gear” activities such as shopping and playing Pokémon GO to justify the large assembly.
“We aren’t calling today a protest,” said Joanne, a 23-year-old professional event organizer who, like many of the protesters, declined to use her given name for fear of legal action. “Some people are here for good food, for sightseeing or for shopping,” she added. “We just all happen to be gathered, and we happen to be angry at the police, but we can’t call it a protest.”