Violence breaks out across Hong Kong on China’s national day
Violence has broken out at multiple locations across Hong Kong as thousands of protesters clash with police in a show of defiance on the 70th anniversary of Communist party rule in China.
Police and demonstrators were engaged in pitched street battles across the city, with officers drawing their revolvers and firing live warning shots into the air and protesters attacking police with sticks and metal poles.
By late afternoon, the authorities had ordered the evacuation of the city’s central government offices, with water cannons being used to spray blue dye at protesters who were descending on the complex in the centre of the city.
The police have also defended the Chinese government’s liaison office in the western part of Hong Kong island, stationing two water cannon trucks near the building. In previous weeks, the building had been defaced by demonstrators in an assault on the main symbol of Beijing’s power in Hong Kong.
Xi Jinping, China’s president, marked the 70th anniversary celebrations in Beijing with the country’s biggest ever military parade on Tuesday morning, featuring an estimated 15,000 troops, 160 warplanes and 580 tanks.
China is seeking to use the pageantry to shore up the patriotism of its people in the face of several challenges: its economy is growing at the slowest pace in nearly 30 years, a swine fever epidemic has sent pork prices soaring; and the country is continuing to suffer from a prolonged trade war with the US.
“There is no force that can obstruct the advance of the People’s Republic of China,” Mr Xi said, even as the biggest pro-democracy uprising on Chinese soil since the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement was erupting in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong began the day in lockdown, with almost 30 shopping malls and a number of metro stations closed on what is normally a busy public holiday. The measures highlight the significant economic cost the protests have caused the city since they began four months ago.
“The so-called National Day is a day for mourning. We are mourning those who sacrificed for democracy in China . . . it’s 70 years of suppression,” said Lee Cheuk-yan, a former legislator and democracy activist, marching in one of the city’s most important shopping districts that is usually flooded with mainland Chinese tourists.
In the shopping district of Causeway Bay, thousands of people mostly dressed in black and some wearing Guy Fawkes masks, stood chanting “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time” and singing protest songs.
A woman who identified herself only as Ms Lam said in Beijing “they are singing and dancing to celebrate the occasion”.
“But there’s nothing for us to celebrate here — look around and everywhere all you see are police,” she said. “I am a Hong Konger and we just don’t feel any sense of belonging [to China].”
The latest protests began on Tuesday morning, with shops and MTR stations closed. As an elite group of dignitaries gathered for an annual flag-raising ceremony by the city’s waterfront, pro-democracy protesters scuffled with pro-Beijing demonstrators nearby.
The 70th anniversary has bestowed on to China the distinction of being the longest surviving communist regime, outlasting the Soviet Union which collapsed in 1991.
In a hugely symbolic gesture, Mr Xi on Monday led seven top officials to pay tribute to Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic. It was the first time since the end of the Cultural Revolution that a head of state had visited the former leader’s mausoleum at Tiananmen Square ahead of the National Day celebration.
Reporting by James Kynge, Sue-Lin Wong, Nicolle Liu, Jamil Anderlini and Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong, and Yuan Yang and Christian Shepherd in Beijing