Hong Kong protesters turn violent amid anger over COVID-19


Hong Kong protesters have returned to the streets on Saturday angered by the authorities handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and the government’s refusal to completely shut its borders with mainland China.

The demonstrations started after a group of people set fire to a ticket machine inside Tin Sau Light Rail (LRT) station on Saturday.

“They even poured suspected flammable liquid onto the blaze,” the government said in a statement, adding that some protesters threw trash cans onto a track while a train was passing through in the other direction.

The protesters also occupied Tin Sau Road in Tin ShuiWai district and built barricades with rubbish bins, wooden boards, foam boxes and debris to block multi-lane highways, the government said on Sunday.

Riot police were dispatched to the scene, surrounded around 20 black-clad protesters and ordering them to remove their masks and show their ID, firing pepper spray at them. At least 14 people were arrested. The government said the incident happened after an earlier, peaceful demonstration had ended.

Riot police also gathered in Fo Tan, in the New Territories, along with an armoured vehicle and a water cannon, ahead of a planned demonstration on Saturday afternoon.

Another group marched in Tai Po against plans to use the local Tai Po Jockey Club primary care clinic into a centre for “mild” COVID-19 cases, chanting slogans calling on the government to close down the city’s border with mainland China.

They told reporters that there had been no consultation with local residents about the clinic before the plan was announced.

While people arriving from mainland China are required to undergo a 14-day period of quarantine, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has stopped short of shutting down the border entirely, saying it is “discriminatory.”

Hundreds of people marched in separate protests in Kwai Chung, Tin Shui Wai and Cheung Sha Wan over plans by the government to designate clinics across the city for the treatment of “mild cases” of COVID-19, to ease the expected pressure on hospitals.

Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority also issued a statement saying that the Jockey Club General Outpatient Clinic on Ting Kok Road in Tai Po has been “maliciously damaged” several times.

It said the incident had disrupted patient care, and police were investigating.

The unrest came amid growing public anger with Lam’s administration over her refusal to close the border with mainland China, which reported a total of 68,508 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, and a death toll of 1,670.

The Hong Kong authorities confirmed on Sunday that they will be chartering a free evacuation flight to bring home Hong Kong residents currently aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess, which is currently quarantined in Japan.

“[The Hong Kong] government is arranging a chartered flight to take Hong Kong residents under quarantine on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship back to Hong Kong free of charge soonest possible after they are permitted to disembark and land,” a security bureau spokesman said.

There are around 330 Hong Kong residents on board the vessel, 260 of whom hold a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport and around 70 of whom are foreign nationals permanently resident in the city. (Source: RFA)