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Monday, September 02, 2019, 03:41
A city-turned-battlefield
By China Daily
Monday, September 02, 2019, 03:41 By China Daily

Protesters train laser beams on police officers and buildings on Hennessy Road in Wan Chai on Saturday night. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY) 

The mayhem and destruction unleashed by rioters across vast areas on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon in an orgy of unprecedented violence on Saturday left residents and tourists alike in a state of shock and horror.

Wan Chai — one of the busiest business and nightlife hubs on Hong Kong Island — resembled a war zone the day after the chaos, with scores of shops still shut and the streets virtually deserted, except for a few tourists lingering around to check out on the situation. 

I was heartbroken seeing the protesters vandalize the city that I love and where I was born and raised. They were actually destroying Hong Kong’s future and that of their own

Victor Chan

a local resident

Radical rioters hurled gasoline bombs and lit bonfires on the streets in the violent clashes with the police on Saturday that left more than 30 injured, with five remaining in a serious condition in hospital on Sunday.

Makeshift metal barricades and metal railings dismantled by the rioters were abandoned randomly at street corners, and a section of the grandstand removed from Southorn Playground in Wan Chai was still left at the scene, blocking traffic along part of Hennessy Road — the district’s main thoroughfare — where many hotels and fine dining restaurants are located. 

Residents walking along Lockhart Road had to take a detour to avoid broken pavements from which protesters had pried bricks to attack police officers. At around 10 am on Sunday, only a few customers could be seen at a normally packed fast-food restaurant near Wan Chai MTR station.

At the height of the violence on Saturday night, parts of Hennessy Road were engulfed by flames that shot up several meters into the air from piles of bonfires lit by the rioters. Other lethal weapons used by the rioters included gasoline bombs, sling shots and sharpened metal pipes.

Recalling the night’s terror, a group of four tourists from Australia told China Daily the disturbances were both scary and a shame that, they said, even left their families back home reeling in shock and disbelief, worried about their safety. Even Wan Chai’s bustling bars were forced to put up shutters, completely ruining the tourists’ programs.

Having checked into a Wan Chai hotel, the Australian travelers said they had come to Hong Kong to have a taste of the city’s “busy and lively” atmosphere but, instead, landed up being confined to their hotel rooms to ride out the chaos. 

Their experience was just a glimpse of how the city has suffered from the nearly three months of turmoil that erupted in early June, with its image as a tourist haven that’s open and diverse shattered.

Nozomi, a 20-year-old Japanese traveler, was completely taken back by the scale of the violence. She said she would reconsider her plan to take up an exchange study program in the city, adding she was “baffled and terrified” by the chaotic conditions around her hotel in Kowloon.

Victor Chan, a local resident, said: “I was heartbroken seeing the protesters vandalize the city that I love and where I was born and raised. They were actually destroying Hong Kong’s future and that of their own.” 

Chan was on his way to Mong Kok to meet his friend on Saturday evening, but found himself stuck in a Kowloon metro station as the railway network was extensively paralyzed. Five MTR rail lines were suspended at one stage at the height of the chaos.

Taxi queues were hopelessly long, and Chan had to ask a friend living nearby to drive him to Mong Kok, with the traffic in central Kowloon almost completely blocked. 

As of 7 pm on Sunday, the MTR stations in Mong Kok and Prince Edward still remained closed, and trains on the Kwun Tong and Tsuen Wan lines had to skip both stations for safety concerns.

Chan lamented that Hong Kong’s economy and its people are feeling the pinch of the prolonged violence and chaos, with many industries, including the tourism and conference and exhibition sectors, bearing the brunt. 

The retail and eatery trades are also under severe strain. The owner of a restaurant in Sai Ying Pun, surnamed Chan, said he may be forced to cut his staff’s pay or lay some of them off to offset the huge losses incurred.

An elderly resident told China Daily of his “deep fear” for the rioters, saying he was forced to take a bus to Hong Kong Island from Kowloon instead of the metro on Sunday morning.

He also reminded China Daily reporters to be “careful” when using mandarin to interview people on the streets as they could be a target of the rioters. 

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