HONG KONG: In one peaceful community previously untouched by the months of unrest that have shaken Hong Kong, it was an unexpected sight: the methodical ransacking of the local subway station over a three-hour period.
Police used tear gas to disperse protesters who had taken over roads, vandalised subway stations, set street fires and trashed pro-China businesses – testing again the capacity of the city's law enforcement, who many accuse of using excessive force.
Around 8.30pm on Friday, it was the turn of Tseung Kwan O, which sits across a bay from the main island of Hong Kong.
For three hours, not one police officer was visible in the district, which is popular with Westerners.
"LIKE A QUEEN"
The demonstrators had all the time in the world to ransack the local station run by the MTR Corp, the company operating the city's underground rail system, which the protesters accuse of siding with the pro-Beijing government.
"MTR supports the government by closing stations on purpose to prevent demonstrators moving around," said one student, 19, who identified himself only as JC.
"But they help transport the police," he said, as rail services were suspended throughout the semi-autonomous territory's network.
"Banning masks doesn't change anything," added JC, hiding his own face – like other protesters – to avoid being identified for prosecution.
Tape covers his fingertips so he leaves no prints.
"The main problem is that she goes through the law without the LegCo," JC continued, referring to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam who was appointed by an overwhelmingly Beijing-friendly committee.
Under sweeping powers unveiled on Friday, Lam does not need the approval of the city's legislature, known as LegCo, to introduce laws.
"She's like a queen now," JC said.
As in many of Hong Kong's New Towns, the subway station is the nerve centre of local life.
Graffiti at the entrance read: "Communist railway".
Inside, fire hoses were unwound and water flowed down escalators leading to train platforms.
The sprinklers were activated too, and the floor flooded as loudspeakers blared an automated message about the "emergency," telling people to leave immediately.
Outside, armed with metal barriers, protesters systematically broke each pane of glass along a 200m facade.
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