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Hong Kong descends into chaos as protesters defy rally ban

Protesters threw firebombs and took their anger out on shops with mainland Chinese ties.

A Policeman chases protesters amid tear gas in Hong Kong (Felipe Dana/AP)
A Policeman chases protesters amid tear gas in Hong Kong (Felipe Dana/AP)

By Kelvin Chan, Associated Press

Hong Kong streets descended into chaotic scenes following an unauthorised pro-democracy rally on Sunday, as protesters set up roadblocks and torched businesses, and police responded with tear gas and a water cannon.

Protesters threw firebombs and took their anger out on shops with mainland Chinese ties as they skirmished late into the evening with riot police, who unleashed numerous tear gas rounds on short notice, angering residents and passers-by.

Police had beefed up security measures before the rally, for which they refused to give permission, the latest chapter in the unrest that has disrupted life since early June.

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Protesters face tear gas fired by police in Hong Kong (Felipe Dana/AP)

Twenty-four people were hurt and treated at hospitals, including six with serious injuries, the Hospital Authority said.

Police did not give an arrest figure. One person was seen being handcuffed and taken away to a police van.

As the rally march set off, protest leaders carried a black banner that read, “Five main demands, not one less,” as they pressed their calls for police accountability and political rights in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Supporters sang the protest movement’s anthem, waved colonial and US flags, and held up placards depicting the Chinese flag as a Nazi swastika.

Many protesters wore masks in defiance of a recently introduced ban on face coverings at public gatherings, and volunteers handed more out to the crowd.

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Riot police move forward as fire is set by protestors to block traffic in Hong Kong (Kin Cheung/AP)

Matthew Lee, a university student, said he was determined to keep protesting even after more than four months.

“I can see some people want to give up, but I don’t want to do this because Hong Kong is my home, we want to protect this place, protect Hong Kong,” he said. “You can’t give up because Hong Kong is your home.”

Some front-line protesters barricaded streets at multiple locations in Kowloon, where the city’s subway operator restricted passenger access.

They tore up stones from the sidewalk and scattered them on the road, commandeered plastic safety barriers and unscrewed metal railings to form makeshift roadblocks.

A water cannon truck and armoured car led a column of dozens of police vans up and down Nathan Road, a major artery lined with shops, to spray a stinging blue-dyed liquid as police moved to clear the road of protesters and barricades.

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A protestor stands wearing a mask of US President Donald Trump in Hong Kong (Kin Cheung/AP)

At one point, the water cannon sprayed a handful of people standing outside a mosque. Local broadcaster RTHK reported that the people hit were guarding the mosque and few protesters were nearby.

The Hong Kong police force said it was an “unintended impact” of its operation to disperse protesters and later sent a representative to meet the mosque’s imam.

As night fell, protesters returned to the streets, setting trash on fire at intersections.

Residents jeered riot police, cursing at them and telling them to leave. The officers, in turn, warned people that they were part of an illegal assembly and told them to leave, and unleashed tear gas to disperse the crowds.

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Protesters set fire to a Xiaomi shop in Nathan Road (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

Along the way, protesters trashed discount grocery shops and a restaurant chain because of what they say is the pro-Beijing ownership of the companies.

They also set fire to ATMs and branches of mainland Chinese banks, setting off sprinklers in at least two, as well as a shop selling products from Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi.

The protest movement sprang out of opposition to a government proposal for an extradition bill that would have sent suspects to mainland China to stand trial, and then ballooned into broader demands for full democracy and an inquiry into alleged police brutality.

PA

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