Riot police by a playground and in front of a public toilet
by Victoria Park yesterday afternoon
More riot police in Causeway Bay yesterday --
these ones blocking off a main road
Still more riot police -- these ones prowling
the side streets and alleys of Wan Chai
As I write this blog, reports are appearing on Twitter of riot police having invaded and threatened people in shopping malls in various parts of Hong Kong with pepper spray, arrests and more. Among the shopping centers that have seen riot police invasions to quell protests taking place within them this evening has been New Town Plaza, the upscale Sha Tin mall that was the first to experience what has sadly becoming common Hong Kong riot police practice in recent months.
Let's hope that no tear gas ends up getting fired by the police in any of the malls tonight. In view of tear gas having been shot off near the Peninsula and then entering its lobby last Sunday, fired into a residential block of a public housing estate in Tuen Mun on Wednesday, fired outside the Landmark and Lan Kwai Fong on Halloween night, and tear gas buffets having been served up in front of Fook Lum Moon (aka "The tycoons' canteen") and other parts of Wan Chai and also inside Victoria Park, the venue of a legal election assembly, yesterday though, I really wouldn't be surprised if the local constabulary decided to also shoot tear gas in these spaces.
The distinct impression one gets is that the police are running riot seeking to suppress even peaceful protests, and regardless of whether they are legal or not. A case in point: the assembly at Victoria Park yesterday afternoon was a legal event held by over 100 District Council Election candidates. But the police treated the people going to it and leaving it like they were criminals -- or, at the very least, criminal suspects -- and actively hindered for those of us seeking to make our way on foot from Victoria Park to Central, where two protest rallies -- both of them granted Letters of No Objection earlier in the week by the authorities -- were scheduled to take place later that afternoon.
As people sought to "be water" and flow in a variety of directions westwards towards Central, a helicopter hovered overhead to presumably track the flows and direct riot police in their hunts for people to arrest. After smelling tear gas more strongly in Wan Chai than we had in Causeway Bay and additionally detecting quite a bit of panic in the air, my friends and I decided to take temporary refuge in the apartment of a friend who lives in the area.
Watching the developing news -- quite a bit of which was actually taking place a stone's throw from the apartment -- on TV where we were holed up, we learnt that the two previously approved events in Central that we had been trying to get to had been cancelled within minutes of their commencing. We also saw one of their three water cannons (which sprayed water with chemicals designed to irritate mixed into it) getting employed by the police and multiple arrests -- with many of the arrestees being young females -- being made, more often than not in a far more brutal manner than really should have been necessary.
On my way home after darkness fell, I passed by the damaged building of Xinhua (China's official news agency) -- which surely would not have been damaged if radical protesters had not found their way to Central blocked and ended up diverting to that part of Causeway Bay which protest marches usually don't go through. I also passed through sections of town where tear gas still lingered in the air and clashes were still taking place; a state of affairs that I really don't want to get used to even while no longer becoming that unexpected.
And while Victoria Park was quiet when I returned there around midnight, the fact of the matter is that Hong Kong remains a place where few people truly feel at peace and calm these days as well as nights; this on the 22nd weekend of protests which began in earnest with a peaceful 1 million person anti-extradition bill protest march back on June 9th that Carrie Lam so very foolishly as well as sadly chose to discount, and whose end doesn't look likely without Beijing as well as the Hong Kong administration recognizing that the demands being made by the protesters most certainly have validity.