MORE than 1,000 rival protesters, some wearing helmets, faced off in a tough district of Hong Kong yesterday, fuelling concerns that the Chinese-controlled city’s worst unrest in decades could take a more violent turn.
After a night of trouble which resulted in 19 arrests, supporters of the city’s pro-Beijing government rallied next to pro-democracy protesters in Mong Kok, a working-class neighbourhood near the popular shopping district of Tsim Tsa Shui.
Many Hong Kong residents expressed anger at police handling of the unrest, with some accusing security forces of co-operating with Triad gangs, failing to make arrests and helping attackers to exit the scene quickly.
After a week of largely peaceful demonstrations demanding that Beijing grant Hong Kong the right to choose its own leader, the mood turned ugly on Friday night in an area notorious for being the home of Triad organised crime.
A rowdy crowd of around 2,000 filled the narrow streets of Mong Kok, one of the world’s most densely populated areas, in the early hours of yesterday morning. The atmosphere was highly charged as police in riot gear tried to keep them under control.
Among the 19 people detained by police, eight were suspected gang members. Eighteen people were injured, including six police officers, said local broadcaster RTHK.
Tens of thousands of protesters have staged sit-ins across Hong Kong over the past week, demanding the city’s pro-Beijing leader Leung Chun-ying step down and that China reverse a decision made in August to handpick the candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 leadership election.