Tensions surged in Hong Kong on Saturday afternoon as a sea of tens of thousands of pro-democracy activists took to the streets as the city entered its 12th consecutive weekend of anti-government protests with Beijing accusing United States forces of sponsoring the movement.
Black-clad activist created makeshift barricades on a major road in Kwun Tong, a working-class area where a march authorized by police started at 1 pm.
On Wai Yip Street, hundreds of protesters sporting hard hats and gas masks, repeatedly shouting “Triads, triads!” at dozens of police officers. The confrontation went on for more than an hour.
Shortly before the march began, a stand-off took place at a metro station nearby.
Some disgruntled residents and protesters confronted staff members of the railway operator, the MTR Corporation, which announced Saturday morning that it would temporarily shut down three metro stations at noon.
The unprecedented move came two days after China’s state-run media outlets criticized the MTR Corporation for being an “accomplice to rioters” by arranging additional trains for protesters to board during police clearance operations.
Earlier this week, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying shot off a series of letters to the management of some of the biggest international media houses with presence in China, accusing Washington of instigating the protests.
The letters said that international coverage of the movement was biased.
Beijing added there was evidence that US forces had been "directly involved" in "planning, organizing and inciting" violent protests in Hong Kong.
The foreign ministry also sent a dossier to the media with evidence which purportedly supported this hypothesis.
It referred to a BBC news article about a legal and public meeting of activists from across the world, including Hong Kong, which took place in Oslo in 2014 to discuss strategies.
Articles from the nationalist Chinese tabloid Global Times and state broadcaster CGTN were also been quoted in the letters.
Nowhere to be seen in these letters are the demands of the protesters: the complete withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill, a pardon for people arrested during the protests, a withdrawal of the term "riots" for the 12 June protests, an independent investigation into police action when dispersing protesters and the establishment of universal suffrage in the city.
As conclusive proof of foreign intervention, Beijing presented photographs of an employee of the US consulate meeting Hong Kong opposition leaders.
But Beijing's claims seem to clash with Hong Kong Police statements.
In a media session with international journalists hosted by the Hong Kong police in mid-August, authorities denied that they possessed any evidence to support the allegations that foreign governments or entities had funded or organized the protests.
Washington has also rejected the claims.
A representative of the US department of state told EFE that it categorically denied the accusation that there were foreign forces behind the protests.
The source also cited Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said the allegation was "ridiculous," and added that the "continuous erosion" of Hong Kong's autonomy was jeopardizing its long-standing special status in international affairs.
Hong Kong opposition leaders said that the Chinese government lacked any self-criticism and the repeated allegations of foreign interference were nothing more than a "broken record."
Wong yik-mo, a leader of the Civil Human Rights Front - told EFE that Beijing would always resort to saying that there was foreign meddling.
Beijing has alleged that the Hong Kong protests - which have been attended by millions of people - have received funding from the US-based National Endowment for Democracy.
Mo said Hong Kong was an international city, and therefore each country was an interested party and therefore had the right to comment on the situation.
The massive street protests, which have been described as the biggest political crisis in the former British colony in decades, kicked off in June and have resulted in violent clashes between the demonstrators and the police.
On Friday, thousands of protesters lined up to form a massive human chain, emulating the Baltic Way human chain formed exactly 30 years earlier by two million people in the Baltic states to demand independence from the USSR.
The protests started as a movement against a controversial extradition bill, which would have enabled fugitives to be extradited from Hong Kong to mainland China, a move which was seen by dissidents as the end of the judicial freedom enjoyed by the city.
Subsequently, even though the bill was declared "dead" by the city's top leader Carrie Lam, the civil campaign against it has morphed into a broader movement seeking to reverse a general decline in freedoms and investigate police brutality.
According to the Hong Kong handover deal between London and Beijing, the "one country, two systems" formula — which includes certain freedoms for Hong Kong not recognized in mainland China — must be preserved until 2047. EFE-EPA