Another Hong Kong protest 'sit-in' turned into a violent scrap with police as on Wednesday night thousands of black-clad youth and others set up barriers and occupied the Yuen Long station of the city's MTR metro.
The protest was to mark the one-month anniversary of what anti-Beijing demonstrators are calling the the 'Yuen Long attack,' which involved a gang of white-shirted, baton wielding men charging the busy station and brutally beat random HK demonstrators and passers-by who were on their way back from a mass rally against the extradition bill.
That prior July 21 incident had left at least 45 injured and ratcheted up anger and tensions between HK police and protesters, given the police were accused of standing by while the unknown thugs attacked the station, and the lack of charges or a transparent investigation into the mass attack (merely two have been charged thus far). It was widely interpreted as a sanctioned violent counter-attack against the anti-Beijing demonstrators designed to send a message.
Wednesday night's commemoration protest turned into hours of chaos after the demonstrators barricaded themselves in the metro station, with police concentrated outside the station, reluctant to charge in.
Demonstrators faced off with officers at #YuenLong station after a sit-in to mark one month since a mob attacked protesters and passengers. Police arrested 28 people, but have not charged anyone in the assaults. #HongKongProtests https://t.co/HVR7injqim pic.twitter.com/fjSQCgOug5— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) August 22, 2019
Trash cans and metal benches were piled together into barricades to block police from entering, as security forces fired tear gas into the station. Liquid was also sprayed on the floor and many demonstrators were armed with fire extinguishers.
Hong Kong protesters on Wednesday used fire extinguishers, water and soap to stop riot police from charging inside Yuen Long station pic.twitter.com/EUgQ5PjyF5— Bloomberg TicToc (@tictoc) August 21, 2019
Below: Footage from the violent July 21st incident at Yuen Long station, when a group of men believed in cahoots with police charged the station as HK protesters were returning from a rally, resulting in at least 45 injured amid blood-spotted floors:
Crucially, with the exterior of the station completely blocked off by police, Hong Kong’s MTR Corp. actually appeared to facilitate the safe exit of protesters at the Yuen Long station. Instead of leaving through the barricades and thus face arrest, the anti-Beijing protesters were simply able to board a waiting train and exit the largely destroyed premises.
This was enough for state-run China Central Television (CCTV) to level charges of "indulging violence" and "challenging rule of law". Images and video of HK protesters taking over the station and fighting off police but getting off unscathed went viral, angering mainland commentators.
Chinese state media HK civic authorities of turning a blind eye to law-breaking anti-Beijing protesters:
Radical protesters stormed Yuen Long MTR station in #HongKong last night, destroying public infrastructures. But ironically, the MTR chose to open train doors to aid their escape from the scene after the riot. #香港 pic.twitter.com/GWR2aWKHu8— China Daily (@ChinaDaily) August 22, 2019
Communist Party-owned China Daily, for example, condemned what it described as follows:
Ironically, the MTR chose to let the criminals go by opening train doors to aid their escape from the scene. This utter disrespect of public order is irresponsible for public safety.
Indeed, video captured the moments the bulk of the protesters effortlessly stepped aboard the train and called it a night after clashing with police, concealing their exit with fire extinguishers amid the chaotic scene.
The HK protesters are increasingly attempting to occupy public infrastructure vital to the functioning of the city as an economic powerhouse, which would give greater leverage in seeing their anti-Beijing demands met.
Images of metro station takeovers and similar acts, however, will be used as justification for if and/or when a mainland security forces crackdown comes inside the semi-autonomous city.