Thousands of jeering Hong Kong residents held a raucous anti-government protest on Wednesday at a suburban subway station that was attacked by a mob last month, angry that nobody has yet been prosecuted for the violence.
Some masked protesters clashed with police in the sub-tropical heat, spraying fire extinguishers from the inside of Yuen Long station as others smeared the floor with cooking oil to stop the police advancing.
Some demonstrators blocked station exits and sealed roads outside the station, aiming green laser beams at the lines of shield-bearing officers. Others threw empty fire extinguishers at police lines from overpasses.
It was the latest in a series of demonstrations, which have sometimes turned violent, since June against a perceived erosion of freedoms in the Chinese-ruled former British colony.
Wednesday’s protest marked the night of July 21, when more than 100 white-shirted men stormed the Yuen Long station hours after protesters had marched through central Hong Kong and defaced China’s Liaison Office – the main symbol of Beijing’s authority.
Using pipes and clubs, the men attacked black-clad protesters returning from Hong Kong island as well as passers-by, journalists and a lawmaker, wounding 45 people.
Democratic Party legislator Lam Cheuk-ting, who was wounded in the attack by suspected triad gangsters, said he believed the protesters wanted a peaceful night on Wednesday but he could not rule out further violence – from gangsters or the police.
“It is impossible to predict… It is deeply disappointing that all these weeks later we still don’t have an independent inquiry into those events,” he told Reuters.
Squads of police were stationed on the station perimeter and some protesters jeered and shone lasers at them. A small crowd of masked young men gathered on a station balcony, swearing and cursing at police vans down a side street.
Anger erupted in June over a now-suspended bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China for trial. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said again on Tuesday the legislation was dead.
The unrest has been fuelled by broader worries about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula adopted after Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997, including an independent judiciary and the right to protest. Demonstrations have included the storming of the legislature and havoc at the airport.
The protests have prompted sharp reactions from Beijing, which has accused foreign countries, including the United States, of fomenting unrest. China has also sent clear warning that forceful intervention is possible, with paramilitary forces holding drills in neighbouring Shenzhen.
Likely worsening already strained ties between Beijing and London, a Chinese national working at Britain’s Hong Kong consulate has been detained in China’s border city of Shenzhen for violating the law.