By Shirley Lau/ Hong Kong / Aug 5 (EFE) / Chaos descended over Hong Kong and emotions ran high Monday afternoon, hours after the launch of a citywide strike, with protesters occupying roads in different parts of the city and the police using teargas to disperse stubborn crowds, often to little avail.
A total of 82 people were arrested, the police announced at around 16.00 local time (10.00 GMT), about nine hours after the launch of the city’s first general strike in 52 years aimed at pressuring the government to properly deal with an escalating political crisis that has rocked Hong Kong since June.
Commuter chaos, slogan chanting at rallies, bickering among citizens, confrontation between police and protesters, and the use of teargas by police and increasingly violent moves by protesters were the order of the day, as discontent with the government and the police – and, for some citizens, with anti-government protesters – continued to intensify throughout the day.
Riot police were deployed to multiple areas across the territory and teargas was used to disperse protesters in at least six areas: Tin Shui Wai, Wong Tai Sin, Tai Po, Tsuen Wan, Tsim Sha Tsui and Admiralty, where the government headquarters is located.
Chris Yeung, veteran political commentator and founder of the online media outlet Hong Kong Citizen News, told Efe: “Hong Kong is at its most chaotic today since the handover, and since the (leftist) riots in 1967.”
The unusual day began when activists thronged the platforms of various subway stations during morning rush hour and prevented train doors from closing, causing temporary delays to train services on eight subway lines.
Road traffic on numerous roads also bore the brunt of the protesters’ non-cooperative movement. At a roundabout in Tai Wai, for instance, some drivers repeatedly drove in circles, causing serious congestion.
With the non-cooperative movement and the city-wide strike, protesters sought to pressure the government to respond to a series of claims that originally consisted only of the withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill, which, according to lawyers and activists, would have allowed Beijing access to fugitives who had sought refuge in the city.
Although the local media reported that an estimated half a million of Hongkongers joined the general strike, many people did not, resulting in quarrels between disgruntled commuters and protesters in different areas.
Jon Mak, a creative writer for an advertising agency, told Efe: “I join the strike because I’m very unhappy with the government’s ineptitude and the police’s brutality over the past two months. They disrupt my life in Hong Kong. One day’s disruption of metro service is nothing by comparison.”
At the airport, over 230 inbound and outbound flights were canceled, as over 3,000 aviation employees and civil airlines officials were on leave for the day, according to the Airport Authority.
The morning chaos was followed by escalating tension and clashes between protesters and police in the afternoon.
Police stations became one of the primary targets of masked protesters. In the late afternoon, some protesters hurled a petrol bomb into Wong Tai Sin Police Station, and others threw bricks, stones, paint bombs and eggs at a station in Tsuen Wan. At about 19.00, protesters set some objects on fire outside Sha Tin Police Station.
The age-old residential area of Wong Tai Sin in Kowloon and the border town of Tin Shui Wai were also two major flashpoints, with numerous rounds of teargas fired by the police starting from early afternoon.
The two districts became the unlikely spots of tension due largely to clashes between police and protesters and local residents last week. The police were criticized for their unnecessary heavy-handed approach in dispersing crowds and arresting people.
In Admiralty, hundreds of young protesters occupied the roads adjacent to the government headquarters. The police fired multiple rounds of teargas between short intervals, but the protesters stayed put, sometimes moving forward towards the police and sometimes retreating.
While the general strike was the main theme of the day, it was the territory-wide chaos that got the most attention, reflecting a widening rift between people and the Hong Kong authorities.
Besides, groups dressed in white also reappeared at night – they belong to local mafias – brandishing metal bars to hit black uniformed people, the preferred color of prodemocratic protesters.
Yeung said: “It is unclear how many people have taken part in the strike. The main message to have come out today is that people’s discontent with the government is rising sharply and that they are increasingly critical of the police’s conduct.”
In the morning, Chief Executive Carrie Lam appeared at a tense press conference, saying “the great majority of Hong Kong people are now in a state of great anxiety.” She also criticized protesters who were increasingly violent in their actions.
Yeung noted that Lam’s comments failed to placate people but would serve to further divide society and aggravate tension between people and the authorities.
The Hang Seng Index closed 767 points lower at 26,151 Monday afternoon.
(Español) Comprensión y vocabulario
Comprehension and Vocabulary
apaciguar y calmar
acorralar y hostigar
contemplar y visitar
eliminando objetos que pueden usarse como armas
amenazando con barras que pueden usarse como armas para hacer daño
bailando con barras metálicas de gimnasia
ha sido equilibrado
ha sido sembrado de
ha sufrido menoscabo
las quinientas mil
el medio millar desde que comenzaron
el medio millar desde el domingo
comprensión por la brutalidad policial
comprensión por los altercados en la ciudad
comprensión por las demandas juveniles