Hong Kong protesters thrown Chinese flag into iconic harbour

Vastavam web: Hong Kong protesters removed a Chinese national flag from its pole and flung it into the city’s iconic Victoria Harbour on Saturday after a pro-democracy rally once again continued into the evening despite police warnings to stick to a short, pre-approved route.
Tens of thousands of black-clad protesters filled a major road in a usually bustling market district where shop owners had shuttered their storefronts in anticipation of a prolonged demonstration.

They also blocked a tunnel and surrounded police stations where non-emergency services were suspended. The protest was the latest in a summer-long pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory. While the rallies have been largely peaceful, they have increasingly devolved into skirmishes with police after some protesters refused to disperse at assigned times.

Pro-democracy demonstrators began setting up first aid stations and handing out helmets a few hours into their rally. When one group reached the harbour near a luxury shopping center and high-end hotels, some protesters climbed up a cluster of flag poles and removed the Chinese national flag. After some debate over whether to paint the flag black, they decided to throw it into the water before the police could intervene.

Shortly afterward, a 38-year-old protester named Paladin Cheng planted himself beside the poles with his own set of flags, which read “Hong Kong Independence.” “We’re losing our freedom little by little,” said Cheng, who was clad in head-to-toe black with a black visor and face mask. “Those who don’t support Hong Kong independence will have no choice but to become Chinese.” While the government has since suspended the legislation, protesters have pressed on with five major demands, including direct elections and an investigation into alleged police brutality. Hong Kong’s leader is chosen by a pro-Beijing committee.

Police warned earlier Saturday that those who continued past the pre-approved route would be breaking the law. They called on protesters to stick to designated routes and times after violent clashes marred previous rallies in the summer-long protest movement.

Any demonstrations that are not pre-approved will be “cleared out” as unlawful assemblies, police said. Zarine Chau, a 56-year-old security guard, said she rarely used to get involved in politics, but was angered after she saw videos of police officers beating up protesters.

“I feel so hurt,” Chau said. “Why doesn’t the government answer to us?” She attended Saturday’s rally with her 5-month-old Chihuahua, who was there to help protesters relax, Chau said. Hong Kong residents have accused police of negligence after 44 people were injured last month in a mob attack by white-clad assailants who appeared to target protesters. Authorities said their resources were stretched due to the prolonged demonstrations. Mong Kok, the site of Saturday’s pro-democracy protest, was one area where protesters set up a pro-democracy demonstration zone in 2014.