HONG KONG — Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and rolled in water cannons that shot blue-dyed pepper water at anti-government protesters, as mass unrest stretched into its 100th day Monday, the longest revolt the city has seen since its handover back to China in 1997.
Thousands of black-clad protesters occupied highways near government headquarters on Sunday, hurling Molotov cocktails and bricks at riot police. A water cannon was set on fire by a petrol bomb. The police responded with a wave of tear gas and water cannons.
Earlier in the day, tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators took to the streets to mark the 15th consecutive week of protests. They yelled slogans and belted out protest songs, including “Glory to Hong Kong,” which first surfaced online two weeks ago and has since been adopted by protesters as their "national anthem." Many marched with their hands raised and palms open as they chanted “Five Demands, Not One Less.”
The police reported Monday that 55 people were arrested during Sunday’s protests, bringing the total number of those arrested to 1,453 since the movement began 100 days ago.
The return to violence, after a week of relative calm, drew an angered reaction from the police department, and signaled that despite recent efforts from Hong Kong’s leaders to appease protesters, the movement shows no signs of slowing down.
Instead, protesters are pressing hard for five demands, which include an independent inquiry into the police’s use of force, releasing those detained during the protests, and universal suffrage. Earlier in September, Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, formally withdrew the controversial extradition bill that first inspired the protests. The bill would have allowed Beijing to extradite wanted individuals across the border to mainland China.
“The chief executive responded to our first demand of withdrawing the extradition bill three months too late,” said Mr. Cheung, who was marching with his wife and teenage son. “We must persist in fighting for all five demands, by any means possible. Even if it means I must shout until my voice is hoarse, I will still continue to come out.”
Permits for Sunday’s demonstration had been rejected earlier in the week, but that didn’t stop thousands of demonstrators from filling the streets in defiance of police orders.
“All Hong Kongers are afraid, but what more do we have to lose?” said Carmen, her face hidden behind a surgical mask. “Too many things happened over these three months, and merely withdrawing the bill will not help the situation.”
Protesters weaved through bustling shopping districts in central Hong Kong towards the government headquarters in Admiralty. There things quickly descended into chaos. Protesters lit street fires and vandalized subway stations. As night fell, they were chased by riot police through narrow alleyways and some were attacked by pro-government thugs wielding knives.
“Too many things happened over these three months and merely withdrawing the bill will not help the situation”
By Monday morning, online forums were already buzzing with videos of violence from the previous night and plans were being made for more protests in the coming weeks.
“For us Hong Kongers, the government must reply to all five of our demands,” said Alvin, a high school senior who was marching Sunday with his classmates — their faces hidden behind black masks. “Or else the protests will not stop.”
Cover: Anti-government protesters light a street fire in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. Diana Chan for VICE News