Renewed confrontations broke out between police and protesters in Hong Kong on Saturday evening. This was sparked by anger over provocative “dancing aunties” who have long vexed local residents near the border with China.
In the latest flashpoint with authorities, hundreds of protesters blocked roads and chanted slogans at police in the northwestern district of Tuen Mun, an AFP reporter on the scene said.
Hong Kong has been rocked by a month of huge peaceful protests as well as a series of separate violent confrontations with police sparked by a law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
On Monday its parliament was trashed by hundreds of masked, youth-led protesters in unprecedented scenes.
Anger towards police is running high after tear gas and rubber bullets were used against demonstrators.
Saturday’s rally had a much more local cause but feeds into Hong Kongers’ anxieties that the city’s unique freedoms and culture are being eroded by a resurgent Beijing.
A rally was held earlier in the day to “reclaim” a park in Tuen Mun where so-called “dancing aunties” have sung Mandarin pop songs through loud microphones and danced for generally older men who give them cash donations.
The predominant language in Hong Kong is Cantonese and locals say authorities have failed for years to tackle noise complaints caused by the performers.
While the afternoon rally ended without incident, large crowds stayed in the vicinity afterwards.
Protesters said police briefly deployed pepper spray as they tried to protect a man who had earlier attacked demonstrators, sparking anger from the crowds.
People later gathered around the local police station shouting “Add Oil!” – a Cantonese phrase expressing encouragement that has long been embraced by protesters.
Police also briefly scuffled with protesters as officers retrieved another man who had been surrounded by the crowd and was being ordered to delete pictures on his phone.
“Protesters were angry about the police officers being quite biased and were protecting our attackers,” one demonstrator, who declined to give his name, told AFP.
Crowds began dispersing soon afterwards.
In response to the huge earlier backlash, the extradition bill was postponed by the city’s pro-Beijing leaders.
But that has done little to quell public anger which has evolved into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous hub.
Protesters are demanding the bill be scrapped entirely, an independent inquiry into police use of tear gas and rubber bullets, an amnesty for those arrested and for the city’s unelected leader Carrie Lam to step down.
Beijing has thrown its full support behind Lam, calling on Hong Kong police to pursue anyone involved in the parliament storming and other clashes.
Activists have called for a new protest on Sunday outside a controversial high-speed train terminus where part of the station is administered by Chinese mainland law.
The rally is being billed as an opportunity to explain to Chinese tourists what their protest movement is about given news is so heavily censored in the mainland.