“The Siege of Wan Chai,” was splashed on the front page of the Sunday Morning Post on December 18, 2005.
Hong Kong witnessed the worst violence seen in decades a day
Then-police chief Dick Lee Ming-kwai did not hesitate to brand the scenes in Wan Chai as a “riot,” as similar scales of violence unfolded in Mong Kok recently, marking the last time authorities made a declaration on the severity of public disorder.
Threats of a riot stalked delegates attending the sixth round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in Hong Kong from December 13-18th, 2005.
During the trade talks, the Convention and Exhibition Centre became a fortress, and the streets and waters surrounding the building was in lock down. Many attempts were made by protesters to reach WTO delegates and disrupt the precarious negotiations.
Some 1,000 anti-WTO protestors, opposed to globalisation, erupted on the streets of Wan Chai that Saturday afternoon as mainly militant South Korean farmers clashed with police officers.
The heart of Hong Kong had turned into a war zone. Lockhart and Gloucester Road became the main focus of running street battles between police and protesters.
Demonstrators breached through police cordons, charged at riot police with bamboo poles, and metal barriers.
Groups of protesters managed to strip some officers of vital protection - snatching police shields, batons and helmets in the process, and attempted but failed, to topple a police van such was the anger.
The determined mob came within metres of penetrating the seemingly impregnable Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Overwhelmed officers responded to protesters, unleashing tear-gas, water cannons and pepper spray.
As the evening wore on, and the temperatures fell, some 1,000 demonstrators occupied Gloucester Road, staging a sit-in. It took 11 hours and a similar number of police officers to remove protesters.
A total of 116 people were taken to hospital following the bloody clashes.
Classified as a riot, under Hong Kong law, an unlawful assembly is a riot when a participant commits “a breach of the peace” that offence carries a maximum jail term of 10 years.
More than 1,000 people were arrested, the bulk being Korean nationals, but only 14 people were charged. However, despite the scale of the violence witnessed, all of the demonstrators failed to be convicted.