The supporters of dozens of protesters in Hong Kong arrested on riot charges have gathered outside court, chanting “reclaim Hong Kong” after another night of clashes with police.
Several hundred protesters mobilised in the streets outside a police station on Tuesday after 44 people were arrested on riot charges stemming from unrest on Sunday. The move brought out at least one officer carrying a shotgun, which he pointed at protesters. It is unclear what the weapon was loaded with.
As the crisis in Hong Kong mounted, reports on Wednesday said that the US was monitoring what a senior Trump administration official called a buildup of Chinese forces on Hong Kong’s border.
Although the nature of the Chinese buildup was not clear, the anonymous official told Bloomberg that units of the Chinese military or armed police had gathered at the border.
In Hong Kong, police said in a statement on Tuesday that the people facing riot charges had set up roadblocks, broke fences, damaged street signs and attacked police officers with bricks and iron rods. One of the accused is a 33-year-old man who was also charged with assaulting a police officer. Separately, a 24-year-old man has been charged with possessing a weapon.
A total of 49 people, including 32 men and 17 women between the ages of 16 and 41, had initially been arrested from the scene on Sunday. Hong Kong police said it would not rule out the possibility of further arrests as it investigates four others released temporarily or out on bail.
In Tuesday night’s protests, livestreamed by Hong Kong media, protesters chanted slogans and threw eggs at the Kwai Chung police station. Police used pepper spray to try to disperse them.
The unannounced protest capped another day of unrest. During the morning rush hour, commuters argued with demonstrators who blocked subway train doors in their continuing movement to demand greater accountability from the semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s government.
Services were delayed and partially suspended on the Island and Kwun Tong lines, subway operator MTR said. It cited “a number of train door obstructions” as well as someone activating a safety device at a platform on the Kwun Tong line.
The action targeted rush-hour traffic at several stations. MTR responded by providing minibuses to replace delayed trains, and normal service was restored by around noon.
One protester, Ken Chan, said he wanted MTR officials to explain why they allegedly failed to take action on 21 July when a large gang of men in white shirts beat dozens of people inside a train station as a huge protest was winding down.
“How could they let the triads in white attack people on the platform randomly, including the elderly and children in the train?” said Chan, 32. “Some of the elderly got smacked on their heads, but [MTR staff] turned a blind eye to it.”
Lorraine Lee, 26, said the subway disruption was an attempt to remind people of the government’s alleged failure to deal with social, economic and political injustices.
“The government has not been addressing the problems in our society,” Lee said. “That is why now Hong Kongers have no choice but to use different ‘creative’ approaches to remind people what is happening in Hong Kong.”
Video showed heated exchanges at Tiu Keng Leng station, where a crowd of protesters and commuters filled the platform and a stopped train.
The disruption is part of a pro-democracy movement that has seen hundreds of thousands take to the streets this summer for marches and rallies. The protests have shaken the government in Hong Kong while the Chinese authorities have accused unidentified foreign actors of encouraging the protests.
Commuters were forced to wait in long lines for free shuttle buses provided by MTR to other subway stops. Protesters conducted a similar action to block trains last week.
Activists began protesting in early June for the government to withdraw an extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their legal rights would be threatened. The government suspended the bill, but the protests have expanded to calls for democracy and government accountability.