Hong Kong braces for weekend mass demonstrations after Halloween clashes

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AFP: Hong Kong cleaned up its famed party zone Lan Kwai Fong on Friday after a night of clashes marred Halloween festivities when police fired tear gas at protesters and were heckled by fancy dress revelers.

The Asian financial hub faces another mass demonstration on Saturday, the latest in more than five months of unrest.

Black-clad anti-government protesters, wearing the now-banned face masks, mingled with Halloween revelers in the bar district of Lan Kwai Fong on Thursday. It was the first time the party zone had been targeted.
Since June, protesters have taken to the streets of Hong Kong in sometimes violent demonstrations in response to perceived Chinese meddling with the city’s promised freedoms.

As colorful-costumed partygoers sipped their drinks, riot police with shields and batons pushed back crowds of revelers and demonstrators who shouted and swore at them to go away.

After a lengthy standoff police fired tear gas at protesters congregating below the Lan Kwai Fong strip in Central, lined with luxury shopping malls, banks and jewelry shops.

Police measures to bar people from entering the area has led to at least a 50% drop in business for bars and restaurants, Lan Kwai Fong Association Director Anthea Cheung said.

The association groups together over 100 restaurants, bars, clubs, retailers and service providers, its website shows.

“Before Halloween was a great day with lots of people coming to celebrate the event but because of the special arrangement many people were blocked from entering the area and many outlets were empty,” Cheung told Reuters.

Thursday’s clashes come ahead of a pro-democracy afternoon march on Saturday from Victoria Park besides the shopping district of Causeway Bay to the Central business district.
The march has been banned by police due to safety concerns, but two pro-democracy rallies to be held in Central in the evening have received permits for people to congregate.

Protesters are calling for other cities including New York, Boston, Sydney and London to stand with them on Saturday in calling for China to fully respect Hong Kong’s autonomy as enshrined in the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.