Hundreds of protesters, many dressed all in black and wearing now-banned face masks, knelt in the key artery of Nathan Road and took cover behind umbrellas, angry at a violent police crackdown on unrest there two months ago
Hong Kong police fired tear gas to break up anti-government protests in the densely populated Kowloon district of Mong Kok on Thursday, as masked demonstrators gathered to join Halloween fancy-dress clubbers on the other side of the harbour.
Hundreds of protesters, many dressed all in black and wearing now-banned face masks, knelt in the key artery of Nathan Road and took cover behind umbrellas, angry at a violent police crackdown on unrest there two months ago.
Some shone lasers at police shouting "Hong Kong people resist" as others built barricades in the road with rubbish bins, plastic seats and other debris, a familiar tactic in five months of often violent unrest.
They blocked off intersections on Nathan Road targeted by activists last weekend, smashed lampposts and pried away bricks and other debris from the paths and shop fronts, hidden from view by others holding umbrellas.
"Having given repeated warnings to the protesters in vain, the police officers have deployed tear gas and will use minimum necessary force to disperse protesters," police said in a statement.
The demonstrators on the main island were gathering at Victoria Park in the Causeway Bay shopping district to march to the hilly, narrow streets of the Lan Kwai Fong bar district above Central, the scene of a deadly New Year's stampede nearly 27 years ago.
Hong Kong's special Halloween:— Mary Hui (@maryhui) October 31, 2019
👻Court hearings on two constitutional challenges to the mask ban
👻 Protester-revellers wear masks to protest the ban
👻 Police remove ppl's masks to ensure they're celebrating Halloween, not chanting protest sloganshttps://t.co/XEkEVjebN0
Some were wearing Guy Fawkes masks and others were made up as clowns. One reveller already in Lan Kwai Fong was dressed in red, apparently modelled on the star character in the dark Hollywood hit movie "Joker."
"Stop blocking the road. Fuck you," they shouted at police. "We want to drink. Can't you let people have some fun for once?"
One reveller with the clown dressed in red, who gave his name as Gordon, 43, said: “I hope no police, no war tonight. Everyone is happy” as he walked away shouting “liberate Hong Kong.”
Police have banned the march and said they would close roads, including the short Lan Kwai Fong street itself, until Friday morning to "facilitate the public celebrating." It was not immediately clear how they would distinguish between party goers and protesters.
It is the first time protesters have targeted the party district in five months of increasingly violent, anti-government unrest. Typically, weekends and celebrations like Halloween see hordes of revellers spilling out of the bars and clubs on to the streets.
A stampede during New Year celebrations at the end of 1992, when thousands had gathered on streets slippery with beer and champagne, killed at least 20 people and wounded scores.
Police, who have been warning for days of the threat to public order and safety, were deploying 3,000 riot officers and three water cannon outside government offices near the route, according to media.
Hong Kong, as widely expected, slid into recession for the first time since the global financial crisis in the third quarter, data confirmed on Thursday, weighed down by increasingly violent anti-government protests and the protracted US-China trade war.