Jul 23, 2019, 3:49 PM
Journalist ID: 2375
News Code: 83408400
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How a ‘peaceful’ HK rally on Sunday turned into a riot

Tehran, July 23, IRNA/Global Times - Chinese society strongly condemned the radical acts of rioters as they intended to storm the liaison office of the central government in Hong Kong and defaced the national emblem of China, and the Hong Kong chief vowed to chase down the criminals.

Using the peaceful rally as a front, radical protesters in Hong Kong were well prepared to turn a "peaceful" protest into a riot on Sunday. 

This was not the first time that a group of radical protesters, who are usually in the pro-West anti-government camp, hid behind peaceful protesters and carefully plotted riots that led to clashes between the police and the public. 

The demonstration began with a peaceful rally in Victoria Park at Causeway Bay on Sunday afternoon and then they marched toward the Southern Playground at Wan Chai, which was a route permitted by the police for protest. 

Along the route, the Global Times reporter saw different supply-distribution spots where participants gave out supplies such as drinks, helmets and masks to the so-called "bravest protesters." 

Before the rally, protesters brought alpenstocks as their steel frame is more solid than the umbrellas and are easy to carry and pass through police checks. 

Faced with growing security concerns, the US consulate general in Hong Kong and Macao issued a warning on Friday, asking people to avoid the rally route, such as Victoria Park and Causeway Bay, and urging people to keep a low profile.

The Global Times reporters found out Sunday that slogans such as "Final Battle" and "Blood Battle" were not just slogans, as peaceful rallies turned into violence at night. As the sun went down, the violence began. It is a strategy that opposition groups have repeatedly used to escalate social tensions. 

On July 7, after a peaceful procession outside the West Kowloon railway station ended, radical protesters turned Tsim Sha Tsui into a battleground as some of them refused to leave after the permitted time. 

On July 14, protesters clashed with riot police officers at a mall in Sha Tin, turning peaceful demonstration into bloody confrontation.


The rally route Sunday permitted by the police should have ended at Wan Chai. However, the protesters moved beyond the scope permitted. Groups of protesters didn't stop at Southern Playground at Wan Chai but continued moving toward the liaison office of the central government at Sai Ying Pun around 4 pm. 

Meanwhile a series of incidents occurred after peaceful processions including charging police cordon lines, besieging the police headquarters and blocking roads.

Well-organized riots

Around 7 pm, a group of protesters arrived at the liaison office and flashed laser lights at the office employees, threw eggs and defaced the national emblem. 

When they sprayed insulting graffiti on the wall, their companions covered them with umbrellas, preventing police and journalists from filming or photographing them. 

At the office entrance to Des Voeux Road Central, protesters blocked the roads with steel fences and a group of radical protesters in masks, holding long umbrellas, assembled at the police office across the street. 

At that moment, the peaceful rally officially ended and turned into a well-plotted attack. 

Protesters chased passengers who were not in black shirts, the uniform for protesters, and also threatened journalists who took photos of the damage they were creating.

At the Des Voeux Road West police station near the liaison office, radicals blocked three exits with steel fences and also blocked the station gate for police vehicles with their umbrellas.

At the moment the damage was made, some protesters pulled out necessities hidden on street corners and distributed them to the crowd, preparing for the police who could soon come to clear the area.

Such skilled tactics were agitated by online messages. Decentralization is also a major characteristic of the radical movement. 

For example, protesters rushed into the liaison office and the police office at the same time. They could also get immediate information about police clearing the place. 

The radicals had clear targets and in the reporter's opinion this showed that turning the peaceful rally into a riot was not improvised. After they arrived at the liaison office, the first thing they did was to damage surveillance cameras by spray painting or covering them with umbrellas. 

Online and offline protesters worked closely together. Online radicals first sent out messages on social network apps such as Telegram and LIHKG so that their on-site counterparts could rush into the liaison office and police bureau at the same time. 

When the police came to clear the place, some radical protesters covered their arms with tape to prevent pepper spray from burning their arms. 

The Global Times reporters saw some protesters in black shirts and masks with goggles shouting and monitoring the process.  

In some group chats on Telegram, the Global Times reporter saw protesters coordinating the action. 

"Front line needs more scissors!" 

"No guard now at the liaison office." 

"Please fill up supplies." 

Those messages also provided updates on police deployments. 

Online protesters divided into groups such as the publicity group, logistics group, first aider, legislative councilor and bravest protester, according to messages shown on Telegram group chats. Each group was constantly recruiting new participants and they all contributed to live updates about protests.
 

Defense 

After damaging facilities and defacing the national emblem at the liaison office, most protesters moved to Sheung Wan, a central business district of the city and turned the place into a war zone armed with iron bars. 

They tore down huge signs on Sunday. After a brief standoff with the police, the police launched tear gas to disperse the protesters.   

Police used very limited force to disperse them. However, the protesters not only did things to insult the country and damage public facilities, but also used journalists as human shields to attack the police. 

When the police tried to push forward and warned the rioters to leave, protesters threw bricks and bags filled with oil paint at the police.

Several protesters hid behind journalists to attack police at close range and the police could not hit back. 

Some protesters also threw tear gas canisters back at police, with one of them accidentally thrown at journalists.

Some protesters stood between the more radical crowd and the police to obstruct law enforcement and clearance operations. 

They urged police to calm down and tried to persuade the police not to fire tear gas, but few used the same tone to persuade the more radical crowd to stay back and leave. 

The liaison office already changed the national emblem at midnight Sunday.Legal experts said the intentional defacing of the national emblem by radical protesters was a serious violation of HKSAR law which carries a sentence of three years in jail. 
 

Violence 

The action of some radical demonstrators rushing into the HKSAR liaison office of the central government has touched the bottom line of the "one country, two systems" principle and must not be tolerated, Geng Shuang, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a press conference on Monday. 

"We firmly support the HKSAR government in taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the central government agencies in Hong Kong, safeguard the rule of law and punish criminals," he said.

After several government bodies condemned on Sunday night the malicious encirclement and impact on the China central government liaison office by radical protesters as well as their tarnishing of the national emblem of China, major official media outlets of the mainland all harshly criticized the violent acts.  

The official newspaper People's Daily said such behavior could not be tolerated anymore, which completely neglected the rule of law and was an open challenge to national sovereignty. 

The radical protests seriously affected Hong Kong's stability and the prospects for future city development, according to a commentary broadcast on the Beijing-based China Central Television. 

"If these groups of radicals who forget their ancestors and ignore the history do whatever they want, and trash a rules-based society while challenging the central government, where is the rule of law and where is the future?" CCTV said.

HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also strongly condemned violent acts in Hong Kong, vowing a full investigation into the violence, according to a press conference on Monday. She said on Monday that the government of HKSAR has "zero tolerance" for violent acts. 

"The HKSAR government will definitely investigate the case strictly according to the law," she said.

Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa also condemned on Monday protesters who defaced the national emblem and called it very heartbreaking and infuriating, media reported. 

Besieging and storming the liaison office of the central government in Hong Kong is jeopardizing the fundamental interests of 7 million Hong Kong people and such behavior can be seen as treason at the global scale, Chan Yung, vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, told the Global Times on Monday. 

"Such violent acts can't be tolerated at all. Authorities will punish them in accordance with the law and will not let illegal activities become the major problem of Hong Kong," he said.

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