HONG KONG: Halloween revelry in Hong Kong struggled Today(Thursday) with the reality of protests and emergency restrictions, as police clashed to manage a rush of demonstrators deliberately intermingled with costumed partygoers in a major nightlife district.
Police fired tear gas in the city, including central Hong Kong. Police clashed with protesters who celebrating Halloween and skirmished with other demonstrators commemorating three months since officers stormed a subway station, injuring protesters and commuters as they pepper-sprayed and struck them.
Ahead of the Halloween celebrations, usually boisterous affairs in Hong Kong and a chance for its bars and clubs to cash in on one of the most profitable nights of the year, police warned that a ban on masks and face paint would continue to be enforced.
“Police officers are empowered, if necessary, to ask anyone in a public place to remove their face masks and face coverings, or wipe off their face paint to verify their identity,” Police Superintendent Louis Lau said in a video message posted on Facebook. He warned that police could arrest anyone who resists, emphasizing, “Everyone must comply.”
Pro-democracy lawmakers are challenging the ban in court, with arguments to be heard Thursday.
Demonstrations have continued every weekend in various districts across the territory, while Lam’s approval ratings have slumped to below 20 percent. The Hong Kong economy has entered a recession, as the gross domestic product from the third quarter has shrunk by 3.2 percent, according to government estimates released Thursday.
Aware of the potential for confusion and chaos on Halloween, protesters staged an unsanctioned march ending in Lan Kwai Fong in central Hong Kong, one of the most famous party streets in the world.
In Lan Kwai Fong, a person in an inflatable green alien costume danced and posed for pictures in front of a line of about a dozen riot police as the crowd swelled and police shouted directions in an effort to control the group.
“I never expected the police to block the road on Halloween,” a man who identified himself only as Chan said while carrying his 4-year-old daughter on his back. “My daughter was so disappointed and scared. ”
In anticipation of demonstrations, police closed a number of roads surrounding the area and shuttered three subway stops early. Hong Kong’s subway network, run by the MTR Corp., has for weeks enforced the early closure of all stops, citing extensive repair works after protester vandalism. The effect has been a de facto curfew in Hong Kong, most intensely felt right after a wave of spontaneous and violent protests in early October, kicked off by the government’s decision to implement the mask ban.
Meanwhile, Ocean Park, one of the oldest amusement parks in Hong Kong, canceled its annual Halloween Fest citing concerns over safety and staff.
Across Victoria Harbor, protesters gathered to commemorate a more somber event: three months since police stormed a subway station in Prince Edward, beating people indiscriminately and spraying pepper spray into train cars. The event has served to further deepen mistrust of the police force and fuel a backlash against the MTR Corp. By 7:30 p.m., police fired their first rounds of tear gas to clear the small crowd there.