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Brawl in Hong Kong mall as protest targets Chinese stores

Monday - September 23, 2019 4:14 am , Category : WORLD
Hong Kong, Sep 23 (IANS) Hong Kong pro-democracy activists took their protests to several shopping malls connected to the citys rail operator, targeting businesses linked to mainland China and vandalizing metro station facilities.
The rallies, which started peacefully with slogan chanting and singing, later descended into chaos as the afternoon unfolded on Sunday, Efe news reported.
At around 18.00 local time, riot police fired teargas and sponge rounds on a road near New Town Plaza, a shopping mall in the satellite town of Sha Tin.
Shortly before the police action, some protesters set miscellaneous objects alight near a police cordon.
Earlier on, a Chinese national flag was desecrated by a group of protesters at New Town Plaza who trampled on it before throwing it into a river nearby.
New Town Plaza was initially the focal point of the anti-government activity of the day, where netizens called for people to throng the glitzy shopping centre for a sit-in without shopping, in an action sarcastically dubbed "Shop with you".
Retail shops in the mall that are run by companies with links to mainland China or deemed pro-government or pro-police, including Huawei, closed their doors after being targeted by protesters who put stickers with anti-government slogans on the shopfronts.
Facilities at the Sha Tin metro station, such as surveillance cameras and ticket machines, were vandalized.
Other shopping centres taken over by demonstrators Sunday afternoon include V Walk in Nam Cheong and Elements, a high-end mall in Western Kowloon. Likewise, there were rounds of slogan chanting and songs singing, and pro-establishment shops were taunted.
The shopping centres were targeted by protesters partly because they sit adjacent to Hong Kong's rail operator MTR Corporation, which in recent weeks has come under fire for allegedly siding with the government against protesters.
Some protesters had planned to rally outside the Hong Kong International Airport to cause disruptions to its operations today. However, the plan did not materialize, with the MTR suspending train service at several stations along the airport express train line and the police deploying a large number of officers in and near the airport.
Hong Kong is witnessing its 16th successive weekend of anti-government protests sparked by a contentious bill on extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China.
The city's top leader Carrie Lam formally withdrew the bill on September 4, but by then protests had broadened into a wider push for democracy for the semiautonomous Chinese city.

--IANS rt/