Updated Aug. 3, 2019, 10:20 a.m.
HONG KONG - Protesters became the target of police tear gas Saturday night after they gathered at the Tsim Sha Tsui district police station and as an estimated tens of thousands of people once again filled the streets to protest the government’s mishandling of its ongoing political crisis that has turned much of the city against leader Carrie Lam.
Protesters marched across Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po on Hong Kong’s Kowloon peninsula on Saturday afternoon before converging in Tsim Sha Tsui, a waterfront shopping district popular with tourists from China, where they briefly barricaded a cross-harbor tunnel.
The protests have been mostly peaceful, although they increasingly have featured skirmishes with police after some protesters refused to disperse at assigned times. Protesters have vandalized buildings, set small fires and thrown bricks, while police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets. There was more of the same Saturday.
The protest is the latest in nearly nine weeks of demonstrations against the government, which earlier this summer tried and failed to push a bill through its semi-democratic legislature that would have allowed criminals to be extradited to mainland China.
The bill unleashed unprecedented anger and mistrust with the Hong Kong government, however, which many believe is heavily influenced by Beijing. That's despite the fact the former British colony has been promised autonomy until 2047.
Even after it was suspended, discontent persists with the government’s heavy handed use of riot police to respond to protests, and its failure to meet any protester demands — including formally withdrawing the bill.
“The government has not responded to the protesters over the last two months. They are asking for the formal withdrawal of the extradition bill and set up an independent committee to investigate the situation,” said a protester who asked to be identified only as Elsie. “I think the government didn’t respond. That’s why the protests continue.”
Many protesters on Saturday chanted slogans calling for a general strike on Monday, which organizers say will involve 23,000 people.
Elsewhere at Saturday's march, half a dozen protesters carried American flags in a bid to draw the attention of the U.S. Congress, which they want to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. The bipartisan legislation “reaffirms U.S. commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law at a time when those freedoms and Hong Kong’s autonomy are being eroded,” according to a press release.
The act would see the U.S. annually review its special trade treaty with Hong Kong, depending on the status of human rights in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. It also would enable the U.S. to impose sanctions on Hong Kong officials.
“This one is an effective weapon against police violence,” said a protester, who asked to be identified as Mr. Chu. “The U.S. is a major force that can help us fight against the Communists.”