Hong Kong protests: Anger over ‘dancing aunties’ sparks fresh clashes with police

HONG KONG • Renewed confrontations broke out between police and protesters in Hong Kong yesterday evening – this time sparked by pent-up anger over “dancing aunties” who have long vexed local residents near the border with the Chinese mainland.

In the latest flashpoint with the authorities, some 2,000 protesters blocked roads and chanted slogans at police in the north-western district of Tuen Mun.

Police said there were 1,800 protesters at the peak of the rally, Hong Kong media reported.

Hong Kong has been rocked by a month of largely peaceful protests as well as a series of separate violent confrontations with police triggered by a controversial Bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.

Yesterday’s rally had a much more local cause, but feeds into Hong Kongers’ anxieties that the city’s unique freedoms and culture are being eroded by Beijing, which is tightening its grip on the city.

A rally was held earlier in the day to “reclaim” a park in Tuen Mun where so-called “dancing aunties”, or “damas” – which means big mamas – blast out their songs through loudspeakers, and dance suggestively for generally older men who give them cash donations.

The predominant language in Hong Kong is Cantonese and locals say the authorities have failed for years to tackle noise complaints caused by the middle-aged women from mainland China.

While the afternoon rally ended without incident, large crowds stayed in the vicinity afterwards.

Protesters said police briefly used pepper spray as they tried to protect a man who had earlier attacked demonstrators, sparking anger from the crowds.

People later gathered around the local police station shouting “Add Oil!” – a Cantonese phrase expressing encouragement that has long been embraced by protesters.

Police also briefly scuffled with protesters as officers retrieved another man who had been surrounded by the crowd and was being ordered to delete pictures on his mobile phone.

“Protesters were angry (with) the police officers (for) being quite biased and (for) protecting our attackers,” one demonstrator, who declined to give his name, told AFP.

Crowds began dispersing soon afterwards.

Anti-extradition Bill activists have called for a new protest today outside a high-speed train terminus, where part of the station is administered by Chinese mainland law.

The rally is being billed as an opportunity to explain to Chinese tourists what the protest movement is about, given that news is so heavily censored in the mainland.

Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam has asked to meet students in the city, in a bid to mitigate mounting tensions between the city’s leadership and protesters.