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Fresh anti-govt. protests, clashes cause disruption in Hong Kong

Riot police push back the press as they isolate and search protesters in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong on September 8, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Unrest shows no signs of abating in Hong Kong, with more anti-government protests and clashes causing disruption in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

As the new week started, school students and alumni in Hong Kong formed human chains across the island before school early Monday in support of the protesters, who have been calling for the administration of Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign over the past three months.

“The school-based human chain is the strongest showcase of how this protest is deep rooted in society, so deep rooted that it enters through the school students," said Alan Leong, an alumni of Wah Yan College in the city’s Kowloon district.

Students, alumni and teachers in the Mid-Levels area take part in a joint ‘school human chain rally’ in Hong Kong early on September 9, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

The student protests followed another weekend of clashes in China’s international financial hub.

Pockets of protest broke out in Kowloon and Hong Kong’s Central district on Sunday night, with crowds setting up barricades, smashing windows, starting street fires and vandalizing the metro station in the former British colony.

Hong Kong police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, who chanted anti-government slogans, rallied at the US consulate and urged American President Donald Trump to intervene and “liberate” them.

The protesters sang the national anthem of the United States, waving US flags and demanding “democracy.”

Central district, home to banks, jewellery shops and top-brand shopping arcades, was awash in graffiti, broken glass and bricks torn up from pathways. The protesters set cardboard boxes on fire, building barricades with metal fencing.

The protests initially began in June over a bill, which would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China.

The bill was suspended later that month in the wake of the unrest. The protesters have, however, rejected the suspension, calling for a full withdrawal of the measure, which critics say would undermine Hong Kong’s legal freedoms and serve as a tool to stifle critics of Beijing.

The demonstrations have also expanded into a broader backlash against the government and calls for the city’s pro-China leader to step down.

‘China to crush any secessionist attempt’

The state-run China Daily newspaper said that Sunday’s rally proved Beijing’s assertion that foreign forces have a hand in the unrest, warning that the demonstrators should “stop trying the patience of the central government.”

China has said foreign countries, mainly the United States and Britain, have been provoking the protesters by issuing statements of support. Beijing has asked the two countries to stop meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.

“Hong Kong is an inseparable part of China — and that is the bottom line no one should challenge, not the demonstrators, not the foreign forces playing their dirty games,” the China Daily said in an editorial.

“The demonstrations in Hong Kong are not about rights or democracy. They are a result of foreign interference. Lest the central government’s restraint be misconstrued as weakness, let it be clear secessionism in any form will be crushed,” it said.

Carrie Lam announced last week that the unpopular extradition bill would be withdrawn at the next session of the city’s Legislative Council, scheduled for next month. Lam expressed hope that the annulment of the bill would end the unrest.

The protesters’ other demands include the retraction of the word “riot” to describe demonstrations and the release of all those arrested during the rallies.

Hong Kong has been governed under a “one-country, two-system” model since the city — a former British colony — was returned to China in 1997.

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