Police fired volleys of tear gas and protesters hurled bricks during clashes in a rural Hong Kong town on Saturday as several thousand activists gathered to protest an attack by suspected triad gang members at a train station last weekend.
Activists pushed ahead with the march in Yuen Long, scene of the attack by club-wielding men, in spite of a refusal by police to allow the protest on safety grounds.
Rocks and bottles were thrown by protesters, who built barricades out of street furniture and umbrellas, creating multiple stand-offs.
Police, widely criticized for failing to better protect the public from last weekend’s attack, responded with tear gas as they pushed activists into retreat as it grew dark.
“Many people want to go but some will stay. There is still a lot of anger. I’m not sure which way it will go. Nam Pin Wai (village) could be a target,” said Kenneth, 27, retreating from one of the front lines.
Amid the retreat, which saw several hundred protesters leave the area, Reuters witnesses saw a hard core group of activists with small metal bats, metal and wooden poles and slingshots moving against the tide.
Last Sunday, about 100 white-shirted men stormed the Yuen Long mass-transit station hours after protesters marched through central Hong Kong and defaced China’s Liaison Office - the main symbol of Beijing’s authority over the former British colony.
The men attacked black-clad protesters returning from Hong Kong island, passers-by, journalists, and lawmakers with pipes and clubs, leaving 45 people injured. Some of the men later fled to Nam Pin Wai, a traditional walled village.
On Sunday, a car was dented and its windows smashed near the village.
Police, considered slow by protesters to respond last Sunday, became a focus for Saturday’s march.
“They failed the public,” Kevin, a protester in a red T-shirt, said of the police earlier in the afternoon, as he stood outside the police station, gripping its gates.
“They deliberately let the triads beat up protesters to get revenge on us ... We’re here to teach them a lesson,” he said, as he shouted an obscenity at the police.
Police said on Sunday protesters used roadside fencing and other street furniture to create roadblocks.
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