HONG KONG (AFP) – Masked protesters daubed the walls of China’s office in Hong Kong with eggs and graffiti yesterday night following another massive rally, focussing anger towards the embodiment of Beijing’s rule with no end in sight to the turmoil engulfing the finance hub.
The city has been plunged into its worst crisis in recent history by weeks of marches and sporadic violent confrontations between police and pockets of hardcore protesters.
The initial protests were lit by a now-suspended bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
But they have since evolved into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms, universal suffrage and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory.
In recent weeks police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets – and parliament was trashed by protesters – as Beijing’s authority faces its most serious challenge since Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997.
Yesterday, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters marched through the streets – the seventh weekend in a row that residents have come out en-masse.
Police ordered protesters to follow a shorter route than normal, but the designated finish line was widely ignored as crowds headed towards the Liason Office – the department that represents China’s central government.
Thousands of masked demonstrators then seized the road outside the imposing skyscraper, erected barricades and began targetting the building with eggs, projectiles, laser lights and graffiti.
“We are here to declare that Beijing is the one violating our governing values and judicial procedures,” a 19-year-old protester who gave his first name as Tony, told AFP.
A man wearing a black mask and bicycle helmet later read out a list of demands on a loudspeaker.
“There is no violent protesters or rioters, there is only tyranny, we will protect our homeland by any means,” he said. “We urge the government to stop leading Hong Kong towards the brink of destruction.”
Riot police later flooded the streets around the building and protesters retreated, setting off a series of cat-and-mouse confrontations into the evening, a now-familiar pattern.
Generally the marches have passed off peacefully, but some have been followed by violence between riot police and small groups of more hardcore protesters who feel years of peaceful demonstrations have achieved little.
“You taught us peaceful marches are useless,” read one of the slogans sprayed onto the Liason Office walls.
Organisers said some 430,000 people turned out for yesterday’s rally.