Hong Kong protesters trash subway station, stage mall rally | News | DW | 22.09.2019
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Hong Kong protesters trash subway station, stage mall rally

Riot police were called after a small masked group vandalized ticket machines and smashed surveillance cameras. A planned airport takeover failed to materialize, but many stores shut when protesters rallied at a mall.

A small group of masked activists on Sunday vandalized a Hong Kong subway station during the 16th consecutive weekend of dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The mob defaced ticket machines and surveillance cameras inside the station at Sha Tin, a city in the northern New Territories.

Local media posted images of riot police quickly rushing in to shut the station. In the subsequent standoff, police deployed several rounds of tear gas to disperse the protesters.

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A larger group of peaceful demonstrators rallied inside a nearby shopping mall, singing protest songs and folding paper "origami" cranes. 

Many protesters lined the railings of the three higher floors overlooking where others were gathered below. Their presence prompted many shops to close.

Chinese flag burned

Tensions rose at one point when masked activists paraded a Chinese flag through the mall that was taken from a government building. The flag was later thrown into a nearby river.

Some protesters, dressed in black, then took apart shop doors and other mall property in order to make a barricade at the entrance to the building. 

However, a planned protest at Hong Kong's international airport on Sunday failed to materialize, although several stations were closed along the express railway line that links the airport to the city.

The air transport hub has been a hot spot for demonstrations since protesters disrupted flights by staging a sit-in, garnering international attention. 

On Saturday night, police used tear gas and rounds of rubber bullets against protesters who threw gasoline bombs toward them and set fires in the streets of another New Territories' town.

Now in its fourth month, Hong Kong's protest movement has often descended into violence late in the day and at night. A hardcore group of activists says the extreme actions are needed to get the government's attention.

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Hong Kongers torn between family and freedom

The demonstrations were ignited by a now-abandoned plan to allow extraditions to mainland China. The movement has since snowballed into much wider anger at the city's local government and life under Chinese rule.

Autonomy 'under threat'

The former British colony returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. It was promised its own government and legal, economic and financial autonomy for 50 years under the "one country, two systems" agreement, but many residents fear that the arrangement is increasingly under threat.

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This weekend's crowds were noticeably smaller than some of the more recent rallies.

Protesters aim to draw out large numbers of residents next weekend — the fifth anniversary of the start of a previous protest era — and on October 1, the 70th anniversary of the founding of communist China.

mm/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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