Hong Kong Halloween revellers struck by tear gas as police clash with anti-Government protesters

Photo: Volunteer first aid medics attended to revellers caught in tear gas fired by Hong Kong police.

Hong Kong police fired tear gas to break up protests in the central Kowloon district, hitting Halloween revellers caught up in the city’s ongoing scuffles between police and anti-Government protesters.

On Thursday hundreds of protesters, many dressed in black and wearing face masks — now banned in the Chinese-ruled city — knelt down in Nathan Road, one of Kowloon’s main arteries, using umbrellas to shelter from the tear gas grenades.

Some shone lasers at police shouting “Hong Kong people resist!”, while others set fire to street barricades made with rubbish bins and other debris.

The tactic has become familiar in five months of often-violent unrest which launched in response to Beijing’s perceived meddling in the former British colony, which enjoys liberties not enjoyed on the mainland under the country’s “one country, two systems” principle.

Protesters also call for the implementation of universal suffrage and independent investigations into allegations of police brutality they allege were committed during the unrest.

The latest clashes follow a meeting between top-level Chinese Communist Party officials in Beijing, who issued a statement which read that the “one country, two systems” must be “upheld and perfected”.

“We must strictly govern the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Macau Special Administrative Region in strict accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law, and safeguard the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macau,” it said.

‘Can’t you let people have some fun for once?’

A man dressed as a cartoon-like alien holds a beer can standing in the middle of a crowd flanked by Hong Kong policemen. Photo: A Halloween reveller dressed as an alien was unperturbed by the police presence in Lan Kwai Fong.

Typically, weekends and celebrations like Halloween see hordes of revellers spilling out of the bars and clubs on to the streets, especially in Lan Kwai Fong — an entertainment area dating back to the 1970s and early 1980s.

Revellers and some protesters were already gathered, many in Guy Fawkes masks, others made up as clowns like the deranged title figure in the film Joker.

It was the first time protesters had targeted the party district.

The revelry soon became gridlocked after police tried to block off the tiny, enclosed street of Lan Kwai Fong itself, infuriating protesters and drinkers alike.

Police raised many blue warning banners reading, “Disperse or we may use force”, but it was not clear how the crowd could disperse in such a confined space.

People are hemmed in on a narrow Hong Kong street by a row of police as neon lights on buildings shine brightly. Photo: Hong Kong police officers enclosed revellers in the narrow streets of Lan Kwai Fong.

“Stop blocking the road. F*** you,” they shouted at police.

“We want to drink. Can’t you let people have some fun for once?”

“Chinese bullies!” another shouted. “This is overkill. It’s Halloween!”

One reveller who gave his name as Gordon, 43, said: “I hope no police, no war tonight. Everyone is happy,” as he walked away shouting, “Liberate Hong Kong!”

“China is an evil Communist country,” said Larry, 26, a social worker enjoying a drink in Lan Kwai Fong.

“China is trying to put its dirty hands on Hong Kong, trying to stop our freedoms. No!”

A person holds a smartphone in a crowd people wearing Guy Fawkes masks which reads'Let us have fun!'. Photo: Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in central Hong Kong in Guy Fawkes masks.

London urges Beijing to respect handover agreement

This week Hong Kong — seen as Asia’s financial capital — slid into recession for the first time in a decade, as unrest continues to dampen investor confidence and diminishes the city’s tourist numbers.

The financial update coincided with the city’s former colonial ruler, Britain, saying Hong Kong should seek ways to de-escalate tensions and find a political resolution to its crisis in a biannual parliamentary report on Hong Kong.

A crowd of protesters wave Britain's union jack flag and Hong Kong's British colonial flag in front of the British coat of arms. Photo: Pro-democracy protesters have called for the help of Hong Kong’s former colonial ruler, Britain.

In the report — covering the first six months of 2019 — British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged the city to foster “meaningful dialogue between all parties” and to protect “the rights and freedoms set out in Hong Kong’s Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration”.

“Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rule of law is what guarantees its future prosperity and success. It is incumbent on all sides to respect it,” Mr Raab said.

The terms of Hong Kong’s transfer back to Chinese sovereignty were negotiated in 1984 by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese President Deng Xiaoping.

That resulted in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which promised Hong Kong British capitalism, common law, and individual freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland for a period of 50 years from the 1997 handover.

External Link: Tweet: Dominic Raab HK

The declaration made no explicit mention of democracy and on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover, China said the document was not binding and “no longer had any practical significance”.

Although the latest report, issued on Thursday, covers only the first six months of this year, Mr Raab’s foreword addressed the events of the past five months, which he described as “one of the most turbulent times in Hong Kong’s recent history”.

“Protesters must end the violence. The police response must be proportionate in their handling of protesters and safeguard the right to peaceful protest,” Mr Raab said.