Hong Kong—Tension flickered across Hong Kong Saturday as riot cops squared off with protesters near a police station in a working-class neighborhood, as an uneasy peace lasting several days threatened to give way.
Thousands of demonstrators, many wearing hard hats and gas masks, marched through the industrial Kwun Tong area, where they were blocked by dozens of riot police with shields and batons.
Protesters pulled together a barricade of traffic barriers and bamboo construction poles while shouting at the rank of police.
Hong Kong’s police force have become the target of the protesters’ ire for their perceived heavy-handed response to the months of demonstrations.
Antipathy has soared toward the police, who have used baton charges, rubber bullets and tear gas against hardcore protesters, but are also accused of beating peaceful demonstrators.
The city has for now pulled back from what appeared to be a nosedive into violence, with the last serious clashes taking place a week and a half ago.
But tension rippled across Saturday’s march, where a number of frontline radical demonstrators known as “braves” had gathered.
“I’ve never seen Hong Kong in such a situation,” 65-year-old Dee Cheung told AFP.
“The youngsters who come out have put their future at stake... they are doing this for Hong Kong. There might be some things we don’t agree with, like the ‘braves’ who tend to charge. But let’s think about why they do that.”
Protests started against a proposed law that would have allowed extradition to China, but have bled into wider calls for democracy and police accountability in the semi-autonomous city.
On Friday evening, thousands of people held hands across Hong Kong in a dazzling, neon-framed recreation of a pro-democracy “Baltic Way” protest against Soviet rule three decades ago.
The city’s skyscraper-studded harborfront, as well as several busy shopping districts, were lined with peaceful protesters, many wearing surgical masks to hide their identity and holding Hong Kong flags or mobile phones with lights shining.
The human chain is the latest creative demonstration in nearly three months of rolling protests which have tipped Hong Kong into an unprecedented political crisis.
“We have tried traditional marches, we have tried more militant acts—although I don’t agree with them—this time we are coming out together to join hands and show that we are all still united,” Wing, who gave only her first name, told AFP.
“By doing this, we are showing people around the world the high quality of Hong Kongers. What people did 30 years ago, we can also do,” said Cat Law, a logistic worker in her 60s.
The Baltic Way was one of the largest ever anti-Soviet demonstrations, when more than one million people linked hands to form a human chain spanning over 600 kilometers (370 miles) on Aug. 23, 1989.
Three decades on, the moving show of solidarity continues to inspire activists across the world.
The “Hong Kong Way” was called by the social media-driven protesters who have turned for the last several days to non-violent means of making their voice heard.
Protesters young and old chanted “Free Hong Kong” while hand sanitizer was passed along the chains in the famously fastidious city.
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