Tear Gas Returns As Hong Kong Riot Police Beat Protesters; 'Smart Lampposts' Destroyed

Hong Kong riot police unleashed on protesters Saturday after a tense standoff resulted in beatings and the deployment of tear gas for the first time in over a week, according to CNA

In Kowloon Bay, police charged protesters who were not in pre-approved rally areas for what is now the city's 12th week of protests. 

Around mid-afternoon, protesters at a police station used bamboo rods and plastic traffic barriers to build barricades, while other set things on fire in the street. 

Photo: May James/HKFP

"Protesters are simply not able to defend themselves. Police are abusing their powers," one man told The Guardian

Down with 'smart lampposts' 

The central theme of this weekend's protests is widespread opposition to the city's installation of so-called 'smart lampposts' which are equipped with censors, closed-circuit cameras, and are connected to the net. While the government says they are only for the collection of air quality, traffic and weather data, protesters say they're part of the state surveillance apparatus. 

Protesters used an electric saw to cut down one such lamppost - with others pulling at it with ropes. The demonstrators shielded their faces with masks and umbrellas to avoid facial recognition. 

The ongoing demonstrations are aimed at pressuring Hong Kong leadership to respond to their political demands - namely, the complete withdrawl of a controversial extradition bill which allows mainland China to pluck Hong Kong residents out of the country for trial. Protesters are also demanding the establishment of an independent body to investigate police violence, and finally - the free election of Hong Kong's leaders and legislature. 

On Friday night, protesters formed a 28-mile-long human chain as people turned out for a peaceful demonstration similar to 1989 anti-Soviet protests in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

There have been numerous skirmishes between riot police and protesters since the protests began, as one of the world's "safest" financial hubs has become a battle zone.