HONG KONG — Antigovernment demonstrators in Hong Kong gathered on Sunday for another planned day of civil disobedience in crowded urban areas, amid concerns that local gangsters might try to assault them in a reprise of earlier violence.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered on Sunday afternoon in Victoria Park, down the road from North Point, a traditionally pro-Communist neighborhood that has long been a stronghold for immigrants from the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian.
The rally, on Hong Kong Island, was authorized in advance by the police. Protesters in the largely leaderless movement had been expected to march to North Point afterward, but as the rally ended, many of them headed in the opposite direction.
By the late afternoon, it was unclear whether they would return to North Point later.
Separately, officers fired tear gas on Sunday afternoon at protesters in Sham Shui Po, a working-class neighborhood on the Kowloon peninsula, across the harbor from Hong Kong Island. The police had earlier rejected an application by protesters to hold a march there.
Video footage from Sham Shui Po also showed police officers in riot gear charging at protesters, and tackling one of them to the ground.
It is the 10th consecutive weekend of mass protests in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory whose residents are worried about the erosion of civil liberties under Beijing’s rule.
The protests began two months ago in opposition to legislation that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where the courts are controlled by the ruling Communist Party. They have since spiraled into Hong Kong’s worst political crisis since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, with protesters demanding the resignation of Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive, Carrie Lam, and demonstrations regularly ending in clashes with the police.
One of the movement’s biggest events this summer was last Monday, when a general strike and set of protest rallies disrupted businesses and transportation in a city known for its order and efficiency. In the evening, a group of black-clad protesters were briefly attacked in North Point by men wearing white shirts and wielding sticks. Those men were widely believed to be members of local Fujianese gangs, although no conclusive proof of that has emerged.
The police made 148 arrests during the general strike on Monday, though they did not specify how many were linked to the North Point violence.
Ng Wun-yim, the chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Fujian Associations, told reporters on Saturday that the associations had played no part in the street brawl on Monday, and that he had urged local Fujianese people to be “calm, restrained and not impulsive.”
“We don’t want to see violence,” he said. “Hong Kong is a civilized society.”
Still, added one of his colleagues, Lo Man-tuen, local Fujianese would not hesitate to defend themselves if provoked.
The violence in North Point last week was reminiscent of another clash on July 21, in which a pro-Beijing mob beat protesters and bystanders in Yuen Long, a satellite town in northwestern Hong Kong that is not far from the Chinese mainland. North Point residents have been on edge since the fight on Monday, with stores closing early the next day amid rumors of further gang violence.
“I consider myself to be a pacifist,” said Cherry Yip, 24, a junior government officer who was at the Victoria Park rally on Sunday. “I don’t dare to participate in the protest in North Point, because I’m scared of the police.”
“I’ve read news saying that there might be gangsters in North Point, so I’m terrified,” she added. “But I still have to come out in order to show our support to those radical people who are willing to go to the front facing the police.”
As of midday Sunday, there was still an unusually heavy police presence in North Point, and many stores were once again closed.
And red banners urging Fujianese to “protect” their home had been plastered around the neighborhood, apparently by local residents.
In addition to the Victoria Park rally and the unauthorized march in Sham Shui Po, Sunday was the last day of a peaceful three-day demonstration at Hong Kong International Airport, one of the world’s busiest, for which protesters did not seek police permission.
There had been panic and widespread disruption in the city on Saturday as protesters hopscotched around the Kowloon side and the police fired tear gas in several locations. Smaller groups of demonstrators blocked a vital cross-harbor tunnel, barricaded a traffic intersection and set fires outside a police station in the Tsim Sha Tsui district, across Victoria Harbor from Hong Kong Island.