Hong Kong, October 5 (Xinhua): Violent and disruptive acts were staged again in various areas of Hong Kong on Friday evening as radical protesters blocked roads, set fires, damaged public facilities, and assaulted police officers and passersby, leaving the transport network paralyzed and forcing numerous shops to close.
Protesters gathered in areas including Central on Hong Kong Island, Mong Kok and Kowloon Tong in Kowloon, and Yuen Long and Sha Tin in the New Territories, and set up barricades on main roads.
In Central, a large group of radical protesters occupied major roads, causing serious obstruction to the traffic. Some of them set fire to a Chinese national flag.
Some protesters later moved to Causeway Bay and blocked the entrance of Hung Hom Cross Harbor Tunnel, a major link between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
In Mong Kok, protesters gathered along Nathan Road, the main thoroughfare in Kowloon, and damaged an ATM machine of the Bank of China.
In Sha Tin, protesters smashed the glass of a government building and damaged ticket gates and automatic sprinkler system at the Sha Tin MTR station. Some protesters gathered in a shopping mall close to the station, forcing shops in the mall to close early.
The government of China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) established an anti-mask law on Friday in the latest drive to end the prolonged violence.
The unrest has lasted for over three months, and the police have had difficulty in bringing all the rioters to justice as most of them wore masks to hide their identities.
The move added Hong Kong to the list of countries and regions that have anti-mask legislations, including France, Canada and many states in the United States.
Radicals escalated their violent acts later on Friday night, setting fires on facilities of more metro stations and attacking MTR staff. A train in Sha Tin station was caught on fire.
Given the escalation of the situation, the MTR Corporation suspended all train services, following closures of several stations due to vandalism and arson, the first time of the full suspension in the past months. With a number of bus routes also suspended, the public transport system in Hong Kong was almost paralyzed.
The HKSAR Legislative Council (LegCo) Secretariat issued a red alert on Friday evening, requiring all persons to evacuate the LegCo Complex immediately under safe circumstances.
The police warned the protesters to leave and stop their illegal acts immediately, and said appropriate forces will be adopted to disperse and arrest radicals.
Some radicals assaulted police officers, hurled petrol bombs at them, and even tried to snatch a gun that had fallen on the ground, according to a police statement.
A large group of rioters attacked a plainclothes police officer in Yuen Long, punching him and grabbing him around the neck. With his life under serious threat, the officer fired one shot in self-defense. While evading the blaze caused by a petrol bomb thrown at him, the officer dropped his pistol and magazine. He stopped a rioter from trying to snatch the pistol but failed to retrieve the magazine as another petrol bomb was thrown at him.
The police called on members of the public to return any bullets or bullet casings if found and stressed that anyone possessing ammunition without a license is liable on conviction to a fine of 100,000 Hong Kong dollars (more than 12,000 U.S. dollars) and imprisonment for 14 years.
Meanwhile, banks, stores and businesses with mainland background or considered patriotic were targeted by the rioters.
Three branches of the Bank of China were set on fire and more than 20 outlets were vandalized. Mi-Home Stores and Best Mart 360 in Mong Kok and Kowloon were vandalized, and petrol bombs were hurled at a storefront of China Travel Service (Hong Kong) Ltd. in Sha Tin, the New Territories.
Some rioters broke into a China Mobile store in Causeway Bay, vandalized facilities inside and took away smart phones displayed on the counters.
The HKSAR government said in a statement early on Saturday that it strongly condemned the violence committed by the mobs in disregard of human life and called on members of the public to pay attention to their own safety.
It reiterated that the police will continue to take resolute law enforcement action to safeguard public safety and restore public order.