Thousands of protesters joined a peaceful march to the US consulate in Hong Kong on Sunday, urging American officials and politicians to support their cause by taking diplomatic action against the city’s government, while radicals broke away from the main rally to unleash chaos.
Demonstrators formed a sea of black as they gathered at Chater Garden in Central and marched up Garden Road to the US consulate, many waving American flags.
“We are here to urge the US government to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act,” a 22-year-old graduate from Polytechnic University, who declined to be named, said.
“We are not selling out Hong Kong but defending the Basic Law, which promises us democracy and human rights.”
Protesters were encouraging US lawmakers to pass a piece of bipartisan legislation that could pave the way for Washington to sanction mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials as well as strip the city of its special status as a separate trade and customs entity from the rest of China.
The bill would require Washington to assess the city’s political autonomy each year to determine whether it should continue to be given that special status under the US-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.
The march began at 1pm, but trouble broke out around three hours later inside Central MTR station as riot police subdued and took away three men.
The MTR shut down the station, as small groups of people began vandalising the entrances, smashing glass panels, painting graffiti on the walls and throwing large potted plants down escalators.
One group piled up wooden barricades at a station entrance and started a large blaze which was later put out by firefighters. In a later statement, the MTR strongly condemned the destructive acts and said an employee was struck by hard objects thrown by protesters.
Protesters then spilled out onto multiple roads in Central, occupying Pedder Street and Des Voeux Road and starting a fire, as shops pulled down their shutters.
But as the riot squad moved in to disperse them, they moved on to Admiralty, where there were more confrontations and stand-offs with police in the MTR station.
Next they descended on Wan Chai, with more acts of vandalism forcing the MTR to close another station, then continued onwards to Causeway Bay, where a large crowd took over Hennessy Road.
Night had fallen when police fired multiple rounds of tear gas at protesters from an MTR entrance near the Sogo department store, a major shopping zone. Officers were also seen beating protesters trying to escape up an escalator.
As the night dragged on, the protests spread to Mong Kok and Hung Hom.
Prince Edward and Mong Kok MTR stations were closed again as a big crowd took over the road intersection outside Mong Kok Police Station.
The protesters kept retreating every time police charged at them, only to regroup and confront them again.
From 9pm, protesters blocked carriageways at Nathan Road near Prince Edward Road West in Mong Kok, briefly paralysing the traffic with barricades made of trash bins and debris. Others hurled hard objects at the police station.
All four stations – Central, Wan Chai, Mong Kok and Prince Edward – were reopened for service on Monday morning.
Separately, youth leader and anti-government activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung was arrested at the city’s international airport as he was leaving for Germany and the US. Wong said he was wrongly accused of violating bail conditions, which allowed him to travel overseas after he was arrested in August on charges of organising, inciting and taking part in an illegal assembly during a siege of police headquarters in Wan Chai in June.