Epoch Times Staff
After police issued a ban on several proposed protests, around 130 pro-democracy candidates for the upcoming district council elections organized simultaneous small rallies at Victoria Park, which didn’t require police authorization, demanding city’s political autonomy. Thousands of protesters filled up the surrounding streets by the early afternoon.
Small groups of masked protesters then fled to the Central business district, through streets lined with banks and top-end jewelry and fashion stores, setting light to ramshackle street barricades and hurling petrol bombs as riot police and water cannon trucks closed in.
Protesters have for more than five months taken to the streets to voice opposition to Beijing’s growing influence in the city’s affairs.
Thousands also attended two separate rallies in Chater Garden of Central business district and the nearby Edinburgh Place, both of which had police approval. Petrol bombs were later thrown on the streets outside of Chater garden, prompting police to fire tear gas.
At least 46 cities in 17 countries worldwide planned same-day rallies in support of Hong Kong.
Protesters later set fire to entrances of metro stations—often targeted as services close down to stop people gathering—and hauled two telephone booths out of the ground to erect one of many flaming barricades. Cat-and-mouse clashes continued into the night as protesters retreated to the Causeway Bay area and across the water to the northern Kowloon side.
In the evening, some protesters stormed into the office of Xinhua News Agency, a state-owned Chinese media outlet, smashing windows and the glass door. They also set a small fire in the lobby and sprayed graffiti reading: “Drive out the Chinese communists.”
At the Victoria Park rally, police fired pepper spray in the face of two political candidates. Three candidates were arrested during the protests on Saturday, The Independent reported.
Toward the evening in Time Square, a shopping mall in Causeway Bay, a first-aider lost consciousness after being struck in the back with a tear gas canister.
Footage circulated online shows that the police also pepper-sprayed a firefighter in Central after he complained that the police were interfering with their work. The reporter filming the incident was also pepper sprayed and accused by police of being a “fake reporter.”
Another video captured near Kowloon Restaurant on Hennessy Road of Causeway Bay, shows police forcing three journalists to remove their gas masks after accusing them of not being real reporters.
Since June, police have arrested around 3,000 individuals and fired over 6,000 rounds of tear gas, as well as 2,400 rubber bullets.
At least two people, an Indonesian journalist and a female medic, have sustained eye damage after being hit by a pellet round.
The Citizens’ Press Conference, a group representing protesters, issued a statement on Saturday condemning the police, saying that they had “continued to stoop lower in their fall as the CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party’s] favorite paramilitary.”
The group also criticized the police for disturbing the peaceful assemblies, attacking electoral candidates, and “violently perturbing electoral rights and freedom under the world’s nose.”
Some mainland Chinese also attended the Saturday protests to express their support to Hongkongers.
Holding a flag composed of patchworked colored squares, Zoo, a female mainland tourist, said she came specifically to support the protest. The flag, which was designed by a Japan-based dissident Chinese artist, is dubbed the “lennon flag” in reference to the colorful displays of post-it notes with messages to support the protests that have lined the city’s streets since the start of the movement.
She told the Hong Kong bureau of The Epoch Times that carrying the protest flag has provided her with a renewed identity and confidence, in contrast to her feelings about the Chinese national flag.
“The Chinese Communist Party intentionally camouflaged the meaning of the Party and the country,” she said, adding that she hoped more people in the mainland could show courage and speak out for freedom.
The headband she wore on her forehead read: “Give me liberty, or give me death.”
In an afternoon rally at Tsim Sha Tsui, Stefano Lodolo, an Italian opera singer who has regularly attended the Hong Kong protests, performed the protest anthem “Glory to Hong Kong.” He told The Epoch Times on Oct. 31 that he hoped that “one person more can make a difference.”
“One region that can lead the change in China is Hong Kong because you still have a relatively high degree of freedom,” he said, adding that the city needed support from the international community.
“It should be Hong Kong that changes China, not the other way around,” Lodolo said.
Marylin, who has spent the past three decades in Hong Kong after moving from Malaysia, criticized the police’s heavy-handed response over the five-month-long protests.
“Being the police, you are supposed to protect your people, not harm them,” she told The Epoch Times at Victoria Park.
Suziko Hirano, a 25-year-old Japanese actress, participated in the Tsim Sha Tsui rally, donning a kimono. She said that she came to Hong Kong to support the protests and will follow it to its end.
“I think this is the last chance,” she said.
The Hong Kong bureau of The Epoch Times contributed to this report.