Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up Halloween party protests

Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up Halloween party protests
(Editor’s note: Paragraph eight contains language that some readers my find offensive)

By Tom Westbrook and John Geddie

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police fired tear gas to break up masked anti-government protesters mingling with Halloween revelers in fancy dress near the upmarket club district of Lan Kwai Fong on Thursday after a standoff lasting hours.

Police also used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters, many dressed in black and wearing now-banned face masks, in Nathan Road, one of the main arteries of Kowloon on the other side of the harbor.

Protesters have for five months taken to the streets of the Chinese-ruled city in a sometimes violent response to perceived Chinese meddling with its promised freedoms. This was the first time Lan Kwai Fong had been targeted.

Shouts of “Give us back Halloween!” rang out as police used their shields to push the crowds forward on the sloping, narrow streets, scene of a deadly New Year stampede nearly 27 years ago.

Revelers and some demonstrators were penned in by police trying to keep the protesters away.

Many of the protesters wore the Guy Fawkes masks made popular by anti-establishment hackers, others wore the clown make-up of the deranged title figure in the movie “Joker”. One was dressed up as Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam in a dog collar and on a leash.

(For an infographic on weapons and tactics used by Hong Kong police and protesters – https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/hong-kong-protests-violence/index.html)


The gridlock infuriated protesters and drinkers alike.

“Stop blocking the road. Fuck you!” they shouted at police. “We want to drink. Can’t you let people have some fun for once?”

“Chinese bullies!” another roared. “This is overkill. It’s “Halloween!”

“China is an evil Communist country,” said Larry, 26, a social worker enjoying a drink in Lan Kwai Fong. “China is trying to put its dirty hands on Hong Kong, trying to stop our freedoms. No!”

Police raised many blue warning banners reading “Disperse or we may use force”, before firing volleys of tear gas at protesters in Central, below Lan Kwai Fong, which hung in the air above the narrow streets lined with luxury shopping malls, banks and jewelery shops.

The protesters were dispersed in all directions, but some played cat-and-mouse with police late into the night.

Most weekends see hordes of revelers spilling out of the bars and clubs on to the streets in and around Lan Kwai Fong, which got going as an entertainment area in the late 1970s and early 1980s with clubs like “Disco Disco” and “Club ’97”, named after the year Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule.

A stampede during New Year celebrations on Dec. 31, 1992, when thousands had gathered on streets slippery with beer and champagne, killed at least 20 people and wounded scores.


As widely expected, Hong Kong slid into recession for the first time since the global financial crisis in the third quarter, according to data released on Thursday, weighed down by the increasingly violent anti-government protests and the protracted U.S.-China trade war.

Questioned about government plans to relieve the pressure that the protests are putting on businesses in Hong Kong, Lam told a conference the circumstances warranted “exceptional” measures.

Her administration has pledged around HK$21 billion ($2.7 billion) of financial aid for businesses since August, partly from rent and fuel subsidies.

The protesters say Beijing’s is interfering more and more in Hong Kong, which returned from British to Chinese rule under a “one country, two systems” formula intended to guarantee freedoms that mainland citizens do not have.

China denies meddling and has accused foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of stirring up trouble.

China said after a meeting of its top leadership that it would safeguard Hong Kong’s prosperity and protect national security.

Some protesters in Hong Kong have thrown petrol bombs at police, lit fires and vandalized government buildings and businesses, especially those seen as pro-Beijing, during recent demonstrations.

Police have responded with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, water cannon and sometimes live rounds.

In Kowloon, the protests in the Mong Kok area marked two months since police beat protesters on a subway train as they cowered on the floor, CCTV footage of which was widely shown online.

(Reporting by Sarah Wu, John Geddie, Twinnie Siu, Simon Gardner, Clare Jim, Farah Master, Greg Torode, Anne Marie Roantree, James Pomfret and Tom Westbrook in Hong Kong and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Kevin Liffey)

French police fire tear gas at protesters in Paris May Day rally

A protester wearing a yellow vest holds a French flag as he walks among tear gas during the traditional May Day labour union march with French unions and yellow vests protesters in Paris, France, May 1, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

By Clotaire Achi and Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) – French police fired tear gas to push back masked demonstrators in central Paris on Wednesday as thousands of people used an annual May Day rally to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s policies.

Labor unions and so-called “yellow vest” protesters were on the streets across France, days after Macron outlined a response to months of street protests that included tax cuts worth around 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion).

A Reuters journalist saw riot police use tear gas to disperse a group of hooded and masked protesters who had converged at the front of the traditional May Day labor union march in Paris.

Some protesters wearing hoods or yellow vests responded by throwing projectiles at the police. Television footage showed a van with its windows smashed. Several people were lightly wounded.

By mid-afternoon, the main march crossing the southern part of the capital was finally able to move amid relative calm, although it appeared that yellow-vests and more radical elements rather than labor unions were dominating the march. The hard left CGT union denounced police violence.

People including protesters wearing yellow vests gather near La Rotonde restaurant during the traditional May Day labour union march in Paris, France, May 1, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

People including protesters wearing yellow vests gather near La Rotonde restaurant during the traditional May Day labour union march in Paris, France, May 1, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

“While the inter-union procession was to start at 14:30 (1230 GMT), unprecedented and indiscriminate repression took place following the acts of violence by some parties,” the union said in a statement. It said union members including the CGT secretary general had been tear-gassed, adding, “This current scenario, scandalous and unprecedented, is unacceptable in our democracy.”

A Reuters photographer saw several masked protesters removing their outfits to merge into the crowd.

French police had warned on Tuesday that there could be clashes with far-left anarchist groups, known as Black Blocs, after calls on social media for radicals to hit the streets.

Authorities had said they expected some 2,000 Black Bloc protesters from France and across Europe to turn up on the sidelines of the traditional May Day union rallies.

Some 7,400 police were deployed in Paris and made 200 arrests.

The “yellow vest” protests, named after motorists’ high-visibility jackets, began in November over fuel tax increases but have evolved into a sometimes violent revolt against politicians and a government seen as out of touch.

Many in the grassroots movement, which lacks a leadership structure, have said Macron’s proposals do not go far enough and most of what he announced lacks detail.

Thousands of people also demonstrated in cities from Marseille to Toulouse and Bordeaux. Some 300 yellow-vest protesters tried to storm a police station in the Alpine town of Besancon.

“We have been trying to fight, to make ourselves heard, for six months and nobody cares. People don’t understand the movement, though it seems pretty simple: We just want to live normally,” said Florence, 58, a trainer in a large company who was marching in Paris.

(Additional reporting by Ardee Soriano, Elizabeth Pineau and Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Kevin Liffey)