Hong Kong police brace for another weekend with clashes expected at Lennon Walls, Asia News


Hong Kong police are bracing for potential protest chaos this weekend, deploying 4,000 officers on Saturday in case of violence in the New Territories and clashes across the city between pro-establishment groups planning to “clean up” so-called Lennon Walls and anti-government demonstrators who have vowed to defend them.

With the city entering its 16th straight weekend of demonstrations triggered by the government’s now-withdrawn extradition bill, organisers of a separate Saturday march planned for Tuen Mun also won an appeal on Friday against a police ban on staging the event.

Protesters are also planning to stage a sit-in at Yuen Long MTR station on Saturday night to mark two months since gangs of men wearing white attacked commuters as well as black-clad demonstrators returning from a mass rally.

“The police force is expecting violence and will deploy 4,000 officers across the city to handle any possible unrest,” a senior police source said.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Junius Ho is vowing to clean up the city. PHOTO: South China Morning Post

While riot police would focus on maintaining public order in Tuen Mun and Yuen Long, another source said any trouble at Lennon Walls would be handled by officers who would be rapidly deployed from the nearest station.

“We know the locations concerned and have assessed the risk,” the source said. “Police will intervene if a breach of peace occurs or is likely to occur.”

Outspoken pro-establishment lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, a hate figure for the protest movement, has vowed to press ahead with his “Clean Up HK” campaign from 9am “to tear the trash that affects the city, clean the walls and clean the people’s hearts”.

“Man up! Sign up! Clean up!” his campaign slogan read.

But in another message posted on his Facebook page at midnight, Ho instructed participants in his campaign not to clean up Lennon Walls because of safety concerns, and that only trash on the streets should be handled. He said his teams would not clash with anyone, cleaning in a peaceful manner.

At a press briefing on Friday, police warned that Lennon Walls, adorned with Post-it notes put up by anti-government protesters, were prone to higher risk as they had been flashpoints for many confrontations and criminal assaults.

Superintendent Fong Chi-kin said police had over the past few months arrested 57 people involved in 40 criminal cases related to Lennon Walls.

“Most of the cases involved violence, such as fighting in public places, assaults and wounding,” Fong said. “So we assessed that these places pose a relatively higher security risk.”

Water cannons were used last weekend. PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Masked youths at their daily press briefing from the protest side said they would simply replace anything torn down by their pro-establishment rivals, but also warned: “If citizens are attacked again, I think our brothers and sisters on the front line will respond accordingly.”

Some protesters were seen removing their own posters from Lennon Walls in advance, saying they were protecting their “artwork”.

Police had originally opposed the Tuen Mun protest, which would target mostly middle-aged women from mainland China, known as dama, who are seen as a public nuisance by local residents irritated by their song-and-dance performances in neighbourhood parks.

But an appeal board overturned the police ban, while requiring the organisers to end the march by 5pm, two hours earlier than they had intended.

Police also revealed on Friday that they had arrested 1,474 people, 207 of whom had been prosecuted, since the mass protests began on June 9.

They fired 3,100 rounds of tear gas, 590 rubber bullets and 290 sponge rounds, while 250 officers were injured.

Tear gas is fired during a clash in Yuen Long in July. PHOTO: South China Morning Post

More trouble is expected on Sunday, with protesters planning to disrupt MTR operations again. Radicals among them have frequently attacked metro stations, vandalising facilities such as ticketing machines and setting fire to entrances.

They are also planning another “stress test” on Sunday targeting the city’s international airport by blocking access routes to disrupt travel at one of the region’s busiest aviation hubs.

The Civil Aviation Department warned on Friday that protesters were planning to interfere with flying aircraft by operating drones or to interrupt aeronautical communications by transmitting radio waves.

“Such acts are not only illegal but also very dangerous,” a spokesman said.

Additional reporting by Clifford Lo and Linda Lew

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.



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