Riot police fire tear gas to disperse Hong Kong protesters

The 8th busiest airport in the world halts flights
02:25 - Source: CNN

What we covered here

  • Clashes erupted in Wong Tai Sin: Riot police fired tear gas at protesters in Wong Tai Sin after failing to disperse the crowd, they said. A large group of protesters also hurled projectiles at police, forcing them back behind the walls of a neighborhood police station.
  • Dueling protests: Earlier today, a pro-police assembly was held in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay.
  • 9 weeks of unrest: This is the ninth consecutive weekend of protests in Hong Kong. They started in June over a now-suspended extradition bill and have evolved to include bigger demands and grown increasingly violent.
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Here's a rundown of today's protests

The protests in Hong Kong’s Kowloon district have wrapped up on this ninth consecutive weekend of mass demonstrations.

Here’s what happened today:

  • Rival protests: There was the main anti-extradition bill, anti-government march in Kowloon, and a smaller pro-police assembly in Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park that ended in the late afternoon.
  • Illegal assembly: The Kowloon march began in Mong Kok, but instead of finishing at the designated end point, protesters continued to Nathan Road. By deviating from the police-approved route, the march became an illegal assembly.
  • Siege on police station: The protests quickly got ugly as night fell, with protesters surrounding and vandalizing the Tsim Sha Tsui police station. They broke car windows, lit a blaze outside the station, threw eggs, shone laser pointers at officers’ faces, and graffitied obscenities onto the station walls.
  • Showdown with police: Riot police were mobilized in the evening. Things got tense, with police firing tear gas and protesters throwing bricks, but the roads were cleared by 11:30 p.m.

Police in Wong Tai Sin were driven into a police station by protesters

Angry protesters forced a group of police to retreat behind the walls of a police station in Wong Tai Sin.

The protesters, who vastly outnumbered the police, were throwing projectiles like water bottles and rocks at the officers. Some of them vandalized the outside walls of the station with graffiti.

Police fired tear gas after futile attempts to disperse a crowd of protesters, they said in a statement.

“Police also appeal to the residents in the area to stay tuned to the latest situation and if necessary, stay indoors and keep their windows closed,” the statement added.

Watch the scene here:

Police have fired tear gas in Wong Tai Sin

Dozens of protesters are locked in a standoff with riot police who have deployed tear gas near a bus terminal in Wong Tai Sin. Police appear to be surrounded by protesters.

Some scuffles broke out earlier in that area, with protesters throwing umbrellas and other projectiles at police, footage from local media showed.

The protests seem to be wrapping up in Kowloon

Police on Nathan Road, which has largely been cleared of protesters.

After a long day of protesting, most people in Kowloon are heading home. They are catching the last trains – nobody wants to be stranded, or risk being cornered by police.

There were reports earlier tonight that the protesters were heading to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, potentially to block vehicles traveling between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, but the tunnel is now open and running as usual.

The roads that had been occupied earlier are now also largely clear.

Footage from local media show some scuffles breaking out in a different section of Kowloon – Wong Tai Sin. Protesters there are throwing umbrellas and other projectiles at police, who seem to be retreating.

Nathan Road is clear as protesters regroup at the Polytechnic University

Nathan Road is largely cleared of protesters after they occupied it for most of the afternoon

Nathan Road, the major artery in Hong Kong’s Kowloon district, is clear now as we approach midnight local time.

It had been blocked earlier this afternoon as protesters stopped traffic and cut cables for traffic lights on the road.

Now, the road is clear with no protesters, all the way from the Jordan subway station to Mong Kok Road – a solid 15 to 20 blocks where the action had been taking place.

The last stragglers, a few hundred protesters, are now gathering at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Police are frustrated and angry after nine straight weeks of protests

This is the ninth straight weekend of protests in Hong Kong – and police, who have been deployed to respond each weekend, after already having worked weekday protests in some cases, are showing signs of strain.

“The police are frustrated,” said CNN International Correspondent Matt Rivers, citing a confrontation two weeks ago when the police shouted back at a female protester.

“Frankly, it was not a professional scene among that police force. But it was also kind of a human scene, in some ways, where you saw the police expressing their frustration, basically telling the woman to shut up.
Night after night, they’re out here, sweating, full riot gear. They don’t necessarily agree with what the protesters are doing, they don’t like the fact that they’re firing tear gas in their own city in an unprecedented way. So there is frustration on both sides, but these protesters are going to keep coming out here because they believe that none of their demands have been addressed, and until they are, I don’t see how this stops,” Rivers said.

Watch the scene here:

Trains are skipping two Kowloon stations

Trains running on the Tsuen Wan and Kwun Tong subway lines have been modified by police request to clear the protests.

Normal service trains will not stop at the Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok stations, but additional trains will be arranged to help passengers at those stations leave.

Business owners face empty shops and restaurants on Saturday night as protests rage

As protesters and police clash in Kowloon, business owners are taking a big hit.

A restaurant owner told CNN his establishment was empty – on Saturday night, which should be the busiest time of the week. He doesn’t support the protesters, but his relatives do – exemplifying the deep social divide that has torn apart some Hong Kong families in the past two months.

Business leaders in the are city complaining of an economic toll due to the near-continuous protests, citing a decrease in retail sales compared to this time a year ago.

Watch the clip here:

The ground is littered with tear gas canisters and casings

Tear gas casings on Nathan Road.

As riot police fire tear gas at crowds of protesters, they’re leaving gas canisters and casings strewn on the street along Nathan Road.

The protesters and police are back to a tense stand-off, after charging protesters were pushed back by the gas.

Tear gas canisters on Nathan Road.

WATCH: Police fire a dozen rounds of tear gas

Protesters who tried to charge forward with plastic shields on Nathan Road were quickly and easily pushed back by riot police, who fired a dozen rounds of tear gas.

Protesters have retreated, but are still banging their shield and chanting.

Watch the scene here:

Some protesters charge the police on Nathan Road, while others fall back

A group of protesters has just charged forward towards police on Nathan Road, breaking a standoff that has lasted more than 40 minutes.

Police responded by firing more tear gas.

Tear gas is fired at protesters surging forward. Ben Westcott/CNN

Other protesters who stayed back say they may head to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which is about 15 minutes from their current location.

At the university they have supplies, first aid, and places to rest.

Tear gas is fired for the third time. Ben Westcott/CNN

Police and protesters stand off on Nathan Road

Democratic politician Ted Hui stands before the police in Kowloon.

There’s a standoff between the police and protesters on Nathan Road, the main artery of Kowloon.

Police haven’t moved for about 20 minutes, as they position vans behind their lines. 

It’s unclear what police are waiting for. Earlier tonight, they had mobilized quickly and efficiently, clearing protesters gathered at the Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station in a few minutes.

That’s seen protester numbers dwindle from thousands to a few hundred core members, who have erected plastic barriers as shields.

Protesters erect plastic street barriers as shields as they face off with police.

Protesters light the third and fourth fire of the night

Local media footage shows a trash can ablaze on Nathan Road, between the protesters and the police cordon.

Also on Nathan Road, protesters have laid cardboard boxes in a row across the road, and set them on fire – creating a horizontal line of low flames.

These are the third and fourth fires that protesters have lit tonight – earlier, they set a pile of cardboard ablaze in front of the Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station, and then lit a fire in a car parked inside the station.

Last weekend, protesters also set a cart piled with cardboard on fire, and pushed it at riot police in Sheung Wan.

8 people were arrested this week for explosives and weapons

Hong Kong police arrested eight people Thursday night for possession of offensive weapons and suspected explosives.

Seven men, aged between 24 and 31, and one 28-year-old woman were detained in Sha Tin district.

Four of the men were discovered pushing a trolley in a parking lot, police said. They were stopped and searched by the police, who recovered two batons, communication tools and other items used in recent protests.

Police also found the keys to an apartment, where they found and arrested the other four people. They were allegedly in possession of two bows and six arrows as well as suspected bomb-making materials, according to the police.

A large amount of essential oils – for which a permit is necessary – were also discovered in the apartment.

Tear gas flag raised for 3rd time

Riot police on Austin Road have just raised a black flag – warning they are about to fire tear gas. It’s the third time they have raised the flag tonight.

They are pushing back thousands of protesters still in the area.

Protesters are pushed back as riot police advance

Riot police on Austin Road are moving hard and fast.Thousands of protesters have been pushed back, but they’re throwing gas canisters back and shining lasers at the police.

Take a look at the scene in Kowloon:

Here's your 10 p.m. catch-up

The scene in Kowloon has escalated hard and fast, with riot police facing off against protesters.

Here’s what has happened since our last catch-up:

  • Little fires everywhere: Protesters set fire to a pile of cardboard outside the Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station, and lit a fire inside a car parked inside the station. Firefighters arrived quickly and extinguished the flames.
  • Tear gas fired: Riot police cleared the protesters outside the station with tear gas, and are now pushing them down Austin Road.
  • Protesters fight back: Protesters have thrown gas canisters back at the police, and are shining lasers into officers’ eyes. They have regrouped outside the Antiquities Office, a government building on Nathan Road, forming a wall of opened umbrellas.

Hong Kong's most popular shopping district has become a war zone

Police on Austin Road are dispersing protesters.

When police finally moved against the protesters surrounding the Tsim Sha Tsui police station, it was quick and decisive.

The sound of tear gas spewing from canisters became almost constant, as did the burning sensation from the white smoke. 

Police dispersal: The police rapidly pushed protesters back in a series of charges – tear gas, advance, tear gas, advance.

Within five minutes they’d cleared the area outside the police station, but for those minutes, Hong Kong’s most-popular shopping district became a war zone.

Protester response: Protesters responded by throwing back empty tear gas canisters, pelting police with bricks and shining lasers in their eyes.

Police on Austin Road are now warning protesters to disperse immediately, saying they are participating in an illegal assembly as they veered off the police-approved march route.

Officers have also announced that they are going to collect criminal evidence at the scene and make arrests.

Watch protesters shine lasers at the police:

Bystanders get caught in the tear gas

As police and protesters face off, some bystanders have been caught in the mix. Videos from the ground show ordinary Hong Kongers moving from the scene, covering their faces with handkerchiefs and paper napkins. Several are wiping their eyes and coughing.

Tear gas causes a burning sensation on the skin and in the eyes – it also makes it difficult to breathe.

Take a look at the scene:

Police urge "radical protesters" to leave scene

As the streets of Kowloon become fogged in tear gas, the police have issued a statement condemning protester violence and urging people to leave.

Read the statement:

“A large group of radical protestors continued to gather outside Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station, setting fire at various locations in its surrounding. They also damaged several vehicles inside the station and hurled bricks and hard objects into the building, causing serious public danger.
In face of the situation, police officers used tear gas in the vicinity to disperse the protestors.
Police appeal to everyone at the scene to leave immediately and express strong condemnation against such violent acts.”

Riot police advance down Austin Road

Tear gas is fired on Austin Road, Kowloon.

The air on Austin Road is thick with smoke and tear gas. Riot police are advancing in a line, with their shields up, creating a wall of plastic.

There are still thousands of protesters on the streets. They are being pushed back, but they’re throwing back tear gas canisters and bricks at police.

Watch it here:

When the streets become a weapon

Parts of the sidewalk in Kowloon have been dug up by protesters, who now routinely use bricks as weapons to throw at the police.