Europe caught between HK activists, China diplomacy

TEAR GAS: Riot police fire tear gas near Causeway Bay station in Hong Kong, China, Sept. 8. Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

HONG KONG – Hong Kong police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in the upmarket Causeway Bay shopping district on Sunday, after demonstrators had rallied at the U.S. Consulate calling for help in bringing democracy to the Chinese-ruled city.

Police moved on protesters from the Central business district who dispersed to nearby Admiralty, the bar district of Wan Chai and on to Causeway Bay in a now familiar pattern of cat-and-mouse clashes over three months of unrest.

Activists set barricades, smashed windows, started street fires and vandalized the MTR metro station in Central, the smartest district of the former British colony.

Central district, home to banks, jewelry shops and top-brand shopping arcades, was awash in graffiti, broken glass and bricks torn up from pathways. Protesters set fires from cardboard boxes, building barricades with metal fencing.

“We can’t leave because there are riot police,” said protesters Oscar, 20, in Causeway Bay. “They fired tear gas from the station. We are heading to North Point.”

North Point is east of Causeway Bay.

Thousands of protesters earlier sang the Star Spangled Banner and called on U.S. President Donald Trump to “liberate” the city. They waved the Stars and Stripes and placards demanding democracy.

“Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” they shouted before handing over petitions at the U.S. Consulate. “Resist Beijing, liberate Hong Kong.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Saturday urged China to exercise restraint in Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Esper made his call in Paris as police in Hong Kong prevented protesters from blocking access to the airport but fired tear gas for a second night running in the densely populated district of Mong Kok.

Pockets of protest broke out in Kowloon over the harbor from the main island of Hong Kong on Sunday night, including in Prince Edward, close to Mong Kok.

Last month Trump suggested China should “humanely” settle the problem in Hong Kong before a trade deal is reached with Washington. Earlier Trump called the protests “riots” that were a matter for China to deal with.

The vandalism started in the evening. Police have responded to violence over 14 weeks with water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas.

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