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October 23, 2019
Asia China Latest Politics

Protesters throng Hong Kong streets as metro shut after violence

HONG KONG: Transport in Hong Kong remained paralyzed on Saturday as metro system was shut in the city after a night of chaos in which police shot a teenage boy and pro-democracy protesters torched businesses and metro stations.

Friday’s protests across Hong Kong erupted hours after its embattled leader, Carrie Lam, invoked colonial-era emergency powers for the first time in more than 50 years to ban the face masks demonstrators use to hide their identities.

“The radical behaviour of rioters took Hong Kong through a very dark night, leaving society today half-paralyzed,” Beijing-backed Lam said in a television address on Saturday.

“The extreme violence clearly illustrated that Hong Kong’s public safety widely endangered. That’s the concrete reason that we had to invoke emergency law yesterday to introduce the anti-mask law.”

 But undeterred by the ban and transport shutdown, several hundred protesters, many wearing masks, took to the streets on Saturday, marching through the bustling central district of Causeway Bay, with more protests planned through the weekend.

 “We’re not sure what is going to happen later, but we felt we had to get out and show our basic right to wear a mask,” said one protester, Sue, 22, who wore a black mask and dark glasses.

“The government needs to learn it can’t squeeze Hong Kong people like this.”The increasingly violent demonstrations that have roiled the city for four months began in opposition to a bill introduced in April that would have allowed extradition to mainland China, but they have since spiralled into a broader pro-democracy movement.

MTR Corp said its network, which carries about 5 million passengers each day, would remain suspended, while shopping malls and supermarkets also closed, in a new blow for retailers and restaurants in a city on the edge of recession.

“As we are no longer in a position to provide safe and reliable service to passengers in the circumstances, the corporation had no choice but to decide to suspend the service of its entire network,” it said in a statement.

Protesters had set fires at stations, as well as to an empty train, and injured two staff, added MTR, which is known for operating one of the world’s most efficient rail networks.

All stations closed late on Friday, stranding passengers and forcing many to walk home, a situation set to worsen during a holiday weekend in the city.

The airport express, one of the most popular routes to the airport, re-opened with restricted service on Saturday, MTR said.

More than a dozen shopping malls, supermarkets, and branches of Bank of China (Hong Kong), Bank of East Asia, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which have been targeted by protesters, said they would not open on Saturday.

A 14-year-old boy was shot and the city’s Hospital Authority said his condition was now stable but gave no details.

About 100 demonstrators besieged a branch of the Bank of China (Hong Kong) in the high-end shopping district of Causeway Bay, while across the harbour in the district of Kowloon, protesters smashed the glass storefront of a China Life branch.