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Police officer is stabbed in Hong Kong during flash-mob protests

A masked protester scuffled with a woman after she tried to remove a facemask worn by another protester following a march from the Tsim Sha Tsui to Sham Shui Po areas of Hong Kong.Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

HONG KONG — A police officer was stabbed in Hong Kong on Sunday, police officials said, in what appeared to be an escalation of the street violence that has gripped the city for months, as flash-mob gatherings unfolded across town.

The gatherings, in more than half of the semiautonomous Chinese territory’s 18 districts, were the first significant unrest since Hong Kong was convulsed by violence a week earlier over opposition to a ban on face masks at public gatherings.

The unrest included attacks on the subway system and on businesses that protesters perceive to be supportive of Beijing. The police force said Sunday that a protester had stabbed one of its officers in the neck, and that his condition was stable.


The rowdy gatherings Sunday — coordinated via social media and encrypted messaging apps — highlighted continuing opposition to the unpopular ban on wearing face masks and capped a momentous week in China’s relationship with the United States.

President Trump said Friday that the two countries had reached an interim trade deal, offering a temporary détente in a rancorous dispute that has rattled investors, lawmakers, and businesses.

Relations between China and the United States were further strained last weekend when a Houston Rockets executive’s post on Twitter supporting Hong Kong’s protest movement infuriated people on the Chinese mainland. Beijing initially fanned nationalistic outrage, but later moved to tamp down public anger at the NBA amid concerns that it was damaging the country’s international reputation.

The demonstrations in Hong Kong on Sunday were varied, including smaller gathering across the city and also cases of vandalism and arson that targeted government offices, subway stations, and several banks and shops.

Some protesters blocked roads, broke streetlights, vandalized a train station, and spray-painted antigovernment graffiti inside shopping malls.

Hong Kong police said one of its officers had been slashed in the neck by a protester Sunday evening with a “sharp-edged” object, and that two people were immediately arrested at the scene. Video of the incident circulating widely on social media appeared to show that the attack was unprovoked.


Police said the officer was conscious when he arrived at a hospital.

The South China Morning Post newspaper also reported that a man who protesters suspected being an undercover officer was attacked Sunday in the Tseung Kwan O district, before other officers dispersed them.

China has increasingly depicted the protest movement in Hong Kong as being separatist in nature even though the demonstrators’ demands do not include a call for independence.

Sunday’s unrest began suddenly in the afternoon, after a morning of relative calm in the city, and had been promoted on social media under the slogan “blossom everywhere.”

“The more widespread today’s operation is, the more difficult it is for the police to chase us down,” Andy Wong, a 19-year-old university student majoring in Chinese literature, said on the fringes of a flash-mob gathering in the Sha Tin district.

Police fired tear gas and made several arrests, and the city’s beleaguered subway operator closed more than two dozen stations. The entire train network had already been scheduled to close earlier than usual Sunday night.

Some protesters said they were demonstrating this weekend to express continued opposition to the face-mask ban, which took effect last weekend and which makes covering one’s face at a public demonstration punishable by up to a year in prison. The city’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, drew on rare emergency powers to invoke the ban this month, prompting a wave of violent protests across the city.


The protest movement began in June in opposition to contentious legislation, since shelved, that would have allowed extraditions from Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party. It has since expanded to include a wide range of demands for police accountability and greater democracy.

Many protesters in the movement have consistently appealed to the US government for support. Notably, thousands marched to the US Consulate in central Hong Kong last month to drum up support for a bill about the city that is moving through the US Congress.

The draft legislation would penalize officials in mainland China and Hong Kong who suppress freedoms in the city, and require an annual justification for why the United States should offer Hong Kong special trade and business privileges. It is scheduled to be considered on the House floor this week.

One of the bill’s vocal supporters in Congress, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, traveled to Hong Kong this weekend and met with people in the protest movement. Cruz was scheduled to meet with Lam, but he said Saturday that she had scrapped the meeting after he refused her request to keep their conversation confidential — an assertion that her office later denied.

The Hong Kong office of China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday night that Cruz had “lied through his teeth” and “made indiscreet remarks on Hong Kong affairs.”


Some of Sunday’s gatherings turned into tense standoffs between protesters and police officers. At one of them, a police officer briefly pointed a gun at protesters who were trying to block a main road into Sha Tin.

In a video circulating widely Sunday afternoon, a masked protester is seen taking a flying leap to kick a riot officer, who was apparently trying to arrest another protester near a shopping center in the working-class Mong Kok neighborhood.

Protesters also vandalized a range of targets across the city Sunday, including a Bank of China branch, offices of pro-Beijing political parties, and at least two Starbucks.

Starbucks became a target for protesters when Annie Wu, the daughter of the founder of Maxim’s Group, a conglomerate that licenses the coffee chain in the city, called protesters “radical” in a September speech at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

On Sunday, protesters broke into a shuttered Starbucks at a mall in the Tai Koo district and spray-painted “black heart” on its wooden countertop — a play on “beautiful heart,” a direct translation of Maxim’s name in Chinese. Spokespeople for Starbucks and Maxim’s Group did not immediately return requests for comment.