Hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers marched from Tsim Sha Tsui to West Kowloon station on Sunday to oppose the anti-mask law and demand for an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality.
Figo Chan Ho-wun, deputy convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, which failed to obtain approval from the police to organize the march, said about 350,000 people participated. Chan said he participated in the rally as an ordinary citizen.
As many people could not participate in the so-called “illegal assembly” because thay had legal concerns, the Civil Human Rights Front continued to press for a letter of no objection from the police, he said.
From 1:30 pm, tens of thousands of people began gathering on Salisbury Road and started marching around 2pm, occupying Nathan Road. They were joined by a large number of protesters in Tsim Sha Tsui and walked toward West Kowloon station. The Express Rail Link, operated by MTR Corp, suspended most of its train services, citing signal problems as the justification.
They then walked along Jordan Road back to Nathan Road. Marchers chanted slogans including “Five demands, not one less!” and “Hong Kong people, rebel!” Masked protesters drew graffiti on walls.
At around 3 pm, masked protesters threw gasoline bombs at the entrance of Tsim Sha Tsui police station. Police put out the fire and then shot numerous tear-gas canisters at the crowd.
At 4 pm, a water-cannon vehicle was deployed to disperse the crowd near the police station. Unfortunately, it sprayed blue-dyed water at the entrance and gates of the Kowloon Masjid and Islamic Centre, according to a video uploaded by Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho to his Facebook page.
Civil Human Rights Front condemned the police for being insensitive to the Islamic religion. Some citizens voluntarily helped clean up the entrance at 5 pm, RTHK reported. The police said in the evening that it was an accident as officers manning the water-cannon truck intended only to disperse “rioters” congregating in front of the mosque. However, a birds-eye-view picture showed that there were not many people at the site at that time.
A group of senior officers visited the mosque in the evening, including Yau Tsim District Commander Ho Yun-sing and Senior Superintendent Yolanda Yu, to meet with representatives. Several police officers arrived with plastic pails and rags in hand and attempted to clean up the handrails at the entrance for several minutes.
Imam Muhammad Arshad, the leader of Hong Kong’s 200,000-strong Muslim population, told RTHK he believed officers did not intentionally direct the water cannon at the mosque.
Philip Khan, a local businessman and activist of Pakistani origin who was hit by the blue water fired by police, said the Commissioner of Police should issue a formal apology.
While the police deployed a water-cannon truck and an armored vehicle to clear Nathan Road, they stayed 200 meters from the core of the crowd. Black-shirted protesters vandalized some Chinese banks and pro-Beijing shops and torched debris on roads.
In Jordan, an armored vehicle was used to clear roadblocks. Police continuously fired tear-gas canisters on Nathan Road. Some passers-by ran away while some shouted at the police. As black-shirted people were too far away to apprehend, the police randomly arrested passers-by instead. An arrested man complained that he could not breathe after he was pushed to the ground by police. Some police officers attempted to disrupt media coverage by shining bright lights at reporters.
Most people loudly expressed their anger at the police, but a few praised them. Clashes continued in Prince Edward and Mong Kok in the evening, with many rounds of tear gas canisters and rubber bullets being fired. The Hong Kong government condemned the violent behavior of the protesters.