HONG KONG – Police fired tear gas and protesters smashed the windows of a shopping mall on Sunday during anti-government protests in Hong Kong amid anger over the death of a student activist and the arrest of lawmakers pro-democracy.
Hong Kong is in the sixth month of protests that began in June against a proposed extradition law and have expanded to include demands for greater democracy and other grievances. Campaigners complain that the government is eroding the Western-style autonomy and civil liberties promised when this former British colony returned to China in 1997.
Police in green fatigues with riot helmets and shields fired tear gas to clean up the streets of Tsuen Wan, in the northwest, after chasing protesters in the neighborhood Citywalk mall. Officers climbed a four-way artery shoulder to shoulder, firing bursts of tear gas in front of them.
Protesters started a small fire with debris on the street. The Apple Daily newspaper reported that four men and a woman suspected of vandalizing stores in Tsuen Wan were taken away.
In Sha Tin, in the northeast, authorities closed a subway station after protesters smashed windows and damaged an ATM. Reporters saw police arrest three men at a residential complex elsewhere in Sha Tin, but the reason was unclear.
In Tuen Mun, in the northwest, about three dozen people dressed in black, the symbolic color of the protests, broke into a shopping mall.
Most were peaceful, but one used a club to smash windows while others knocked over tables in a restaurant. Onlookers on the street outside shouted “Cockroaches! ” to the police.
Inside the Festival Walk shopping center in Kowloon Tong, reporters saw a man lying on a public walkway next to a small pool of blood with police standing above him. His condition and the reason for his possible injuries were unclear.
There were brief scuffle matches between the police and the buyers, some of whom threw their fists in the air in a gesture of defiance. Police sprayed pepper spray inside the mall.
A government statement said that a person arrested in Kowloon Tong had escaped from police due to outcry from protesters.
Activists are calling for the resignation of the leader of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, Executive Director Carrie Lam.
The protests added to the downward pressure on Hong Kong’s economy. He was already grappling with declining global economic growth and the US-China tariff war.
The territory of 7.5 million people entered its first recession since the global financial crisis after economic activity contracted 3.2% in the quarter ending in September.
Police announced on Saturday the arrest of six lawmakers accused of obstructing the local assembly in a rowdy May 11 meeting over the extradition bill. All were released on bail.
Meanwhile, protesters mourned the death on Friday of university student Chow Tsz-Lok, who fell from a parking lot when police fired tear gas at protesters.
The circumstances of the death are unclear, but many accuse the police of using brutal tactics, including the widespread use of tear gas and pepper spray. Police have denied pushing the 22-year-old student during the incident last Monday or delaying emergency treatment.
The territory is preparing for the district council elections on November 24 which are seen as a measure of public sentiment towards the government.
Pro-democracy lawmakers accuse the government of trying to provoke violence to justify the cancellation or postponement of elections.
Violence erupted Friday night when protesters took to the streets following commemorative events for the student in several locations.
More than 3,300 people have been arrested since the start of the protest movement.