Hong Kong Protests Lead to Police Standoffs, but No Clashes

 A day of demonstrations across Hong Kong on Saturday began with a peaceful teachers’ march and ended with standoffs between the police and young protesters. But after a week in which both sides were criticized for taking violence and mayhem to new levels, there were no clashes.

In the densely populated Mong Kok district, protesters gathered Saturday evening outside a police station and shined laser pointers at windows and threw eggs at the officers guarding the entrance. Officers in riot gear took over nearby streets and chased some demonstrators. But the crowds had largely dispersed by 8 p.m.

Some supporters of the protest movement may have been saving their energy for Sunday, when organizers are hoping for a large turnout in Victoria Park, in the Causeway Bay district. They had applied for a permit to march from the park to the Central district, essentially the same route taken in two enormous marches in June, but the police turned them down. Organizers have appealed that decision, saying that it puts people in danger because many are likely to march regardless.

ImageThe wave of demonstrations began in June to oppose a now-suspended bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China.
CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

On Saturday, young protesters distributed fliers promoting the Sunday rally. Some demonstrators chanted, “Go to Victoria Park on Aug. 18!”

Most of the protest events on Saturday were peaceful, and reflected the breadth and variety of the movement. The wave of demonstrations began more than two months ago to oppose a now-suspended bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China. But the movement has broadened to include other demands, including universal suffrage and an investigation of the police.

Brenda Chow, 55, a substitute teacher, was among the thousands who gathered in Central for the morning rally led by teachers. “We are here to protect our students, to protect our children and to voice our demands,” she said.

In the afternoon, under bursts of rain, crowds marched with umbrellas through the residential districts of Hung Hom and To Kwa Wan, an event meant to draw attention to the influx of tour groups from mainland China. Some demonstrators see the increase in visitors from the mainland as one aspect of China’s growing presence in Hong Kong, a former British colony that has been a semiautonomous territory since its return to Chinese rule in 1997.

“Our community has been disturbed,” said Andy Choi, 37, an engineer who has lived in To Kwa Wan for seven years. “Our parking lots have been remodeled as spaces for tourist buses.”

An animal-protection group had organized a rally for Saturday evening to call on the police to stop sending police dogs to protest scenes and to stop using tear gas in residential areas where it could cause discomfort to animals nearby. But organizers said early Saturday that the event had been canceled.

Protest activity in Hong Kong had quieted somewhat over the past few days, as if all sides were stopping to catch their breath. Street clashes became intense in several parts of the city last Sunday, with the police firing tear gas into a subway station and the authorities accusing protesters of hurling gasoline bombs.

On Tuesday, a night of chaos unfolded at Hong Kong’s international airport, where demonstrators had forced flight cancellations for two straight days. Protesters confronted a man they accused of being a mainland Chinese police officer, pushing him to the ground and kicking him until he fainted, prompting an evacuation by ambulance.

They also surrounded a reporter for a Chinese state-run newspaper, bound his hands and feet, punched him and searched his belongings. Protesters later apologized for their behavior.

The United Nations human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, said this past week that there was evidence that the Hong Kong police had violated international standards for the use of less-lethal weapons like tear gas. In a statement, she urged the authorities to act with restraint.

Concerns about spiraling violence may have increased attendance at a rally Saturday afternoon meant to show support for the Hong Kong government. Tens of thousands of people gathered in a harborside park, where “Oppose Violence, Save Hong Kong” was displayed on a giant screen.

“I came here to support the police,” said Yeung Yin-yin, a 25-year-old accountant who said the protesters “had brought shame upon Hong Kong people.”

Cheung Sai-faan, 69, a retired businessman, was holding a Chinese flag and wearing another on his shoulder. “We are not opposed to peaceful protest,” he said, “but I do not like violence.”

A sign of the protest movement’s continued vitality came Friday evening, when a rally in Central drew thousands of people. The gathering was peaceful and largely over by 10 p.m.

In a leafy park surrounded by skyscrapers, the crowd watched a video message from Brian Leung, a protester known for deliberately removing his mask to show his face after he and others stormed the local legislature’s building in July. He has since left Hong Kong and faces possible arrest if he returns.

“Uncertainty surely abounds when it comes to my future,” Mr. Leung said. “I would still put the movement over my safety.”

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