HONG KONG – Hong Kong riot police fired teargas and sponge rounds to disperse an anti-government protest that targeted the so-called “singing aunties” of Tuen Mun, Saturday afternoon.
The violent clashes unfolded as a lawful march that drew thousands drew to an end.
At 15.00, thousands of people turned up in Tuen Mun to join a themed march to protest the so-called “singing aunties,” or “dama” in Chinese.
The female entertainers, many of whom come from mainland China, are deemed a nuisance by local residences who have complained about loud singing and provocative dancing.
Some residents have denounced alleged illegal sex work.
Michael Mo, convenor of the march, told journalists before the rally:
“Residents and the community stand up again today to voice out our dissent on dama.
“They have been here for over a decade.
“We demand the government to take strong action (...) to return the park to Tuen Mun residents.”
Despite the local theme of the demonstration, anti-government and anti-China sentiments were palpable throughout the two-hour event, which was initially banned by the police.
Organizers successfully appealed the ban and agreed to shorten the duration from five to two hours.
Marchers held up signs with slogans such as “Tuen Mun’s dama block our way” and “Drive out the Communists, get back our Hong Kong.”
At one point, a Chinese national flag was pulled down and set alight.
Tensions rose when some protesters removed median railings from roads while a small group got onto a train track and hurled stones.
Shortly before riot police fired teargas, the police force said on its Facebook page that protesters were carrying weapons including “metal rods, catapults and laser guns.”
Authorities fired teargas and sponge rounds outside a bus terminal.
Following the police action, some frontline black-clad protesters lit bonfires and quickly fled.
The afternoon march was preceded by a pro-government campaign in the morning to remove anti-government Post-it notes and fliers plastered on public walls dubbed “Lennon Walls” across different parts of the city.
The “Clean Hong Kong” campaign was launched by pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho, who has become a hate figure in the ongoing anti-government protests for his alleged involvement in a mob attack exactly two months ago in the suburban town of Yuen Long.
During the 21 July incident, which sent shockwaves through Hong Kong, dozens of protesters and ordinary commuters in a metro station were beaten by a big group of white-clad gangsters for more than 30 minutes amid an absence of police presence.
In film footage captured in Yuen Long that night, Ho was seen shaking hands with some white-clad men who called him a “hero.”
The Lennon Walls, inspired by a famous wall in Prague in the 1980s filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and lyrics of the Beatles, have appeared in all 18 districts across the former British colony over the past three months.
Decorated with messages supporting pro-democracy protesters and against the government and the police, the Lennon Walls have become the flashpoints for many violent events.
In one recent incident, a 50-year-old man allegedly stabbed three people, including a journalist, at a Lennon Wall in a tunnel in the residential town of Tseung Kwan O.
Junius Ho, a lawyer by profession, previously said 36,000 people, some from mainland China, would join the clean-up action to “protect the environment, tear off the trash that affects the city, clean the walls, and clean the hearts of the people.”
On Saturday morning, small groups of people were seen in several districts to tear down the colorful notes.
Occasionally, bickering broke out between the cleaners and residents. No protesters showed up.
Some anti-government netizens previously said in a popular online forum that they would not fight with Ho’s people over some Post-in notes.
A sit-in was planned for 19.00 Saturday at the Yuen Long station to commemorate the 21 July mob attack.
In anticipation of chaos, the city’s underground train operator MTR Corporation closed the station at 15.00, two hours after closing the Tuen Mun station.
The Asian financial hub is entering its 16th weekend of anti-government protests.