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Violent clashes intensify in Hong Kong as both sides blame the other

Police used tear gas to clear the streets and arrested more than 50 people in the latest incidents.

A man throws a brick to policemen during a protest in Hong Kong (Kin Cheung/AP)
A man throws a brick to policemen during a protest in Hong Kong (Kin Cheung/AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

Both sides of Hong Kong’s political divide have claimed their opponents bear responsibility after violence during anti-government protests over the weekend.

Pro-government members of the Legislative Council condemned the acts of protesters who blocked streets, threw petrol bombs and assaulted police officers.

“You can say a lot of different opinions to the government, but violence is different. If we can accept violence, our city will be ruined,” Starry Lee, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said.

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Demonstrators damage a restaurant run by a pro-China owner (Kin Cheung/AP)

Pro-democracy legislators countered that the city’s government and the police needed to take responsibility – the former for introducing the extradition legislation that sparked the protests and the latter for “selective enforcement of the law targeting government opponents”.

Kwok Ka-ki, a member of the Civic Party, blamed Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam for the escalation.

He called her creation of a platform for dialogue a delaying tactic rather than an attempt to resolve the conflict.

“She is the one who should shoulder all the responsibility, and now she is trying to get away from all the responsibility and shifting the focus to the so-called platform,” Mr Kwok said.

A hardline contingent took over the streets on the weekend following peaceful pro-democracy marches, arguing that peaceful protest is not enough to get the government to respond.

Police used tear gas to clear the streets and arrested more than 80 people.

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Demonstrators wear masks to avoid tear gas fired by riot officers ((Kin Cheung/AP)

Assistant police commissioner Mak Chin-ho called the actions of the hard-line protesters reckless and a grave threat to public safety. He said that 21 officers were injured on Sunday.

“The police have zero tolerance for violent acts,” he said, adding that citizens should ask themselves: “Is this the Hong Kong you would like to see?”

The pro-democracy movement has five demands including democratic elections and an independent inquiry into what it alleges is police violence in breaking up demonstrations.

The protests started with the now-suspended extradition bill, which would have allowed suspects to be sent to mainland China to face trial, and has expanded to encompass a general concern that China is chipping away at the rights of Hong Kong residents.

Hong Kong’s leader is chosen by a 1,200-member committee dominated by supporters of the central government in Beijing. About half of the legislature is elected by the public, while the other half represents professions and groups such as lawyers and accountants.

PA

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