Police once again clashed with street occupiers early Sunday in Mong Kok, a Hong Kong neighborhood that has become the flash point of the city’s ongoing protests.
It was a relatively calm night Saturday until just after midnight, when hundreds of police engaged in what appeared to be another effort to either clear streets of young protesters or at least take back some territory they had recently claimed.
Early Friday morning, police had opened major streets to traffic in Mong Kok, a section of Hong Kong on the Kowloon side of the city that’s popular with mainland Chinese tourists. But later that night, the police were overwhelmed by thousands of protesters seeking to regain their turf, many of them chanting in Cantonese: “Keep going! Keep going!”
After police retreated early Saturday, protesters installed barricades to reclaim and even expand the territory they had lost, although it was not entirely clear that was the reason the police again responded with force.
In a repeat of the previous night, police used pepper spray and clubs on protesters Saturday and early Sunday. Video and firsthand reports suggested that many were injured. Authorities reported that more than 60 police and protesters were injured the previous night, a number that street activists said was far higher.
The continued clashes followed a day in which the government and protest leaders agreed on a time and place to start negotiations. As of Saturday, talks were scheduled to start Tuesday afternoon, involving key student leaders and Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the No. 2 official in the Hong Kong government.
Before the late-night violence, Hong Kong’s police commissioner, Andy Tsang Wai-hung, went public and condemned the ongoing protests, his first comments since his officers used tear gas on protesters on Sept. 28.
“The police have been extremely tolerant of the unlawful acts of the demonstrators in the past two to three weeks,” said Tsang, according to a translation provided by the South China Morning Post. “We did this in the hope that they can calm down and express their views in an otherwise peaceful, rational and lawful manner. Unfortunately these protesters chose to carry on with their unlawful acts . . . which are even more radical or violent.”