Traffic on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon was brought to a near standstill in certain areas on Sunday, as demonstrators built barricades and blocked main thoroughfares on another day of illegal protests.
Tempers ran high as residents tried to navigate the disruption, with more than half of the city’s 94 metro stations staying closed throughout the day. By 9pm, the entire network was again shut down.
Arguments broke out as people crammed on to those buses still crossing the harbour, while an elderly woman and protesters traded insults in Yau Ma Tei when she complained there was no public transport available because of the marches.
Police issued a succession of statements about protesters “setting up barricades with barriers and intercepting vehicles on the road”, and also suspended report room services at Wan Chai and Mong Kok police stations, both of which have previously been besieged by protesters.
“Police express the strongest condemnation against these acts, which endanger the safety of road users,” police said in one statement.
As protesters marched against the government and its new mask ban along Nathan Road in Kowloon, and Hennessy Road on Hong Kong Island, radicals built barricades, using materials ripped up from beside the road, or torn from buildings, including bamboo poles, metal road barriers, traffic cones and rubbish bins.
One young protester in his twenties who built a barrier on Harcourt Road said the roadblocks were meant to slow down advancing riot police.
“It’s mainly to protect people,” he said. “I’m not worried about it being an inconvenience because police have sealed off all the roads around here anyway.”
Meanwhile, another roadblock was built on Percival Street in Causeway Bay in expectation of police marching to the area from Hung Hom via the Cross Harbour Tunnel. A 27-year-old woman named Ai said she feared it may get violent in the evening.
“It’s not that we want to go in the street to fight back, but all of us know that the emergency law is not democratic,” she said.
“We are disappointed with the legal system and people are turning more violent, because our last resort, the legal system, cannot stop the government to prevent the emergency law.”
More than 80 traffic lights were broken in Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, Tsuen Wan, Sai Kung and Yau Tsim Mong districts, said the Transport Department in a statement. It warned the public to “drive with the utmost care and patience” as repair work took place.
Citybus announced the suspension and diversion of at least 120 bus routes, including those running between the city and Hong Kong International Airport.
Additional reporting by Laurie Chen and Simone McCarthy