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Political Crisis In Hong Kong Deepens As Protests Turn Violent


To Hong Kong now, where a political crisis is deepening.


This weekend brought yet more pro-democracy protests. Half a million people turned out for a mostly peaceful march. Police met them with tear gas and rubber bullets. Things got more violent across town.





UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Yelling unintelligibly).

KELLY: Armed men in white T-shirts attacked people in a subway station. Dozens were hospitalized. Pro-democracy activist Nathan Law suspects that was the work of triads, Chinese mobsters. He was not in the subway station. He was at the march, and he described it to me.

NATHAN LAW: So the rally was largely peaceful, and there were some conflicts with the police when the rally arrived to the Liaison Office, which is China's representative in Hong Kong. And the police fired rubber bullets and tear gas, and numerous protesters were injured.

KELLY: And you were - were you there? Were you able to see any of this firsthand?

LAW: Yes. Yes, I was there. And I witnessed the police releasing tear gas and firing rubber bullets. It was very chaotic. And - well, those police officers basically firing at people when the people were not actually storming or making any progressive moves. They just wanted to disperse people. But they have already used such lethal (ph) degree of violence. It is quite unacceptable.

KELLY: And this was all at the main protest, where there were something like half a million people who had gathered. Then, I understand later in the evening, things turned really ugly. We have seen footage of men in - wearing white T-shirts attacking protesters in a subway station in northern Hong Kong. How shocked were you by these images?

LAW: Yeah. That was also a very tragic incident. And it was - took place in Yuen Long, on the other side of Hong Kong, where the triad gangsters just came out and - well, allegedly receiving orders from Beijing from their bosses. Their purpose was trying to create fear.

KELLY: Is there any actual evidence? I mean, it is my understanding is there is nothing substantiating that these people were working on orders from mainland China or working with police.

LAW: Well, of course, there are alleged claim but not substantial evidence, if you want to talk about it. But if you know about Hong Kong's politics, it has been a phenomenon since 2014 that there were gangsters also attacking the occupants in the Umbrella Movement and, also, it's a sign of Hong Kong politics that this colluding happens with the government and triad gangsters.

KELLY: The - I should just insert here that the police chief in Hong Kong has denied any kind of complicity or any role in turning a blind eye to these attacks. The leader of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, has said that any allegations that police were colluding with these attackers are unfounded.

So what will you do next, you and your fellow protesters? Will you change your tactics?

LAW: Well, I think we have to remain very restrained and very clever and flexible. The reason why we are still receiving massive and enormous support is we are very restrained, even though we face the high degree of violence from the police forces. I hope that it can continue. But of course, it's like a pressure pot that you don't know when it will explode. But the anger in the crowd has been accumulating, and you always hope that we could remain restrained. But at the end of the day, no one knows what will happen.

KELLY: So how are you and your fellow activists feeling today - fired up for more protests or pausing because of the way things turned very, very ugly over the weekend?

LAW: Well, of course, we all feel fatigue. It has been really exhausting. But I think for a lot of Hong Kong people who have a heart for the city, who wanted the city to be - to grow and that we all understand is a battle that we cannot afford to lose.

KELLY: That was pro-democracy activist Nathan Law speaking with us there from Hong Kong.

Thank you very much.

LAW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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