August 11, 2019 / 3:08 AM / 9 days ago

Hong Kong braces for fresh protests as marchers set to defy police ban

HONG KONG, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Hong Kong protesters readied to take to the streets again on Sunday, defying a police ban on marches in the Chinese-controlled territory and continuing a restive weekend of demonstrations which saw police fire teargas overnight.

Anti-government protests were planned in different locations in the Asian financial hub, including one at the city’s international airport for a third day.

On Saturday, police fired volleys of teargas to disperse protesters after activists rallied across the city, with thousands occupying the airport arrivals hall.

Increasingly violent protests have plunged Hong Kong into its most serious political crisis for decades, posing a serious challenge to the central government in Beijing who has taken an increasingly tough line on the protests.

Police said on Sunday they had arrested 16 people during the protests on Saturday for charges including unlawful assembly and possession of an offensive weapon. Authorities have arrested over 600 people since the protests began in June.

China has said the central government would not sit idly by and let the situation continue. Hong Kong’s government has also said the violence and illegal protests were pushing the city to an extremely dangerous edge.

China has also targeted the city’s corporate giants, demanding that the city’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific Airways suspend staff involved in the demonstrations.

The airline told staff on Saturday it would bar any “overly radical” employees from crewing flights to the mainland and said it had removed a pilot who was arrested at protests last week from duty.

The former British colony of Hong Kong is roiling from months of protests that began against a proposed bill to allow people to be extradited to stand trial in mainland China and have developed into calls for greater democracy.

Police have not given permission for Sunday’s two protests planned in the city’s working class Sham Shui Po district in Kowloon or for North Point on Hong Kong Island.

Several leisure and public facilities have planned to close during the afternoon when the protests are expected.

Protesters have increasingly adopted flash tactics, playing a cat and mouse game with police to evade capture.

Young people have been at the forefront of recent protests, worried about the erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong, while also concerned with issues such as wealth disparities in the city.

Elderly people have also been appearing. On Saturday in two separate protests, small groups of elderly Hong Kongers and families marched near the financial centre’s business districts. Both marches and the airport protests were peaceful.

Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Kim Coghill

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