Violent demonstrations returned to the streets of Hong Kong on Saturday as protesters clashed with riot police, ending a two-week period of relative calmness in the city.
The Associated Press reported that hundreds of protesters dressed in their signature black-clad garb hurled bricks and gasoline bombs at police officers, who in turn sprayed tear gas at demonstrators while brandishing batons. The protesters also blocked a road with a barricade constructed with bamboo sticks, according to NPR.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) August 24, 2019
The clashes followed a march against “smart lampposts,” in which pro-democracy protesters tore down several lampposts out of fear that they had high-tech cameras and facial recognition surveillance capabilities used by the Chinese government. Some people used an electric saw to cut through a smart lamppost as others tied ropes around it to pull it to the ground.
The moment when a smart lamppost is being pulled down by #antiELAB protesters in Kwun Tong this afternoon (Aug 24). This footage has been circulating online.
— Ezra Cheung (@ezracheungtoto) August 24, 2019
The Hong Kong government insisted that the smart lampposts are exclusively used to obtain data on traffic, weather, and air quality.
Police resorted to using tear gas to disperse protesters after their warnings “went futile,” according to the government. Most protesters had scattered by early evening, though clashes burst out in other neighborhoods.
The protests are part of a wave of pro-democracy demonstrations that have taken place in Hong Kong since June. They first began as protesters called for the elimination of an extradition bill that would have allowed the Chinese government to bring Hong Kong residents to the mainland to stand trial.
The bill received resounding condemnation from residents of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, who viewed it as a breach of the “one country, two systems” agreement that was negotiated in 1997, when Hong Kong was returned to China from British rule.
“Hong Kong people’s private information is already being extradited to China. We have to be very concerned,” organizer Ventus Lau told the Associated Press before Saturday’s march.
The Hong Kong government had previously announced it plans to place about 400 smart lampposts throughout the city, beginning with 50 installations this summer at the site of Saturday’s protests in the Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay districts.