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Hong Kong Protests Continue to Escalate

Protests in Hong Kong continued over the weekend, marking the beginning of the city’s sixteenth consecutive week of civil unrest. The protesters targeted subway stations and shopping malls, clashing with police in multiple districts. The protesters set fires and threw Molotov cocktails as law enforcement responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, CNN reported.

Inside a shopping mall in northern Hong Kong, protesters targeted Chinese-owned businesses and international businesses such as Starbucks and Simply Life, which are owned by food and beverage conglomerate Maxim’s, whose founder publicly criticized protesters earlier this month. Protests in shopping centers escalated, and business was disrupted to a level that many stores closed.

The Hong Kong protests have had a marked effect on travel to the city; the Board of Airline Representatives of Hong Kong—which represents more than 70 airlines that fly to and from the city—requested that the government provide temporary relief from landing and parking fees, rent, and other operational costs as the fallout from antigovernment protests resulted in a sharp drop in traveler demand, Reuters reported. Passenger numbers fell 11.5 percent in August.

The economic and political pressure is on for next week—1 October will mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and the anniversary is likely to attract additional demonstrations in Hong Kong.

A senior police commander told foreign media on Friday that the level of violence in the protests and demonstrations was reaching a point where officers might be forced to use live ammunition to defend themselves or others, CNN reported. Hong Kong Police accused “radical protesters” of destroying property and holding weapons—including metal rods, slingshots, and laser guns—near the Tuen Mun Government Offices. In previous weeks, police officers have pulled sidearms or fired weapons in the air during confrontations with protesters.

A recent report from human rights NGO Amnesty International highlights the “Hong Kong police’s heavy-handed crowd-control response,” documenting incidents of arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment in detention. More than 1,300 people have been arrested in connection with the mass protests over the past three months.