Hong Kong protests: Police fire tear gas near China’s liaison office

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Hong Kong has seen a second day of violent clashes between police and pro-democracy demonstrators who are also angry at alleged police brutality.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters trying to reach the Chinese government’s office.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken over streets near Sai Wan and Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island.

Hong Kong has seen eight consecutive weekends of anti-government and pro-democracy protests.

It is ranked as one of the safest cities in the world – but recent protests have been followed by violent clashes between demonstrators, police and masked men wielding sticks suspected of being criminal gang members.

Sunday’s protests saw activists wearing protective helmets and goggles erecting barricades at several different locations and chanting “free Hong Kong”.

The protests began as a police-authorised gathering in a park in the central business district before protesters defied the authorities and marched west towards the Chinese liaison office in Sai Wan and east towards the Causeway Bay shopping area.

Hundreds of police blocked the protesters from reaching the Chinese liaison office. The building had been fortified with plastic barricades and a Chinese government emblem above the front door had been covered with a plastic shield, Reuters news agency reported.

Last Sunday the office was targeted by protesters who wrote graffiti and threw paint on its walls. Chinese officials said this was a challenge Beijing’s authority that would not be tolerated.

Some protesters chanted “reclaim Hong Kong” and “revolution of our times”, or held up banners that read “end the violence”.

Demonstrations began when the Hong Kong government introduced a controversial bill that would have enabled extraditions to mainland China.

It sparked huge protests as critics feared the bill would undermine Hong Kong’s freedoms, and be used to target political activists.

The row intensified as police were accused of using excessive force on anti-extradition bill protesters.

Tensions increased further last Sunday, when suspected triad members descended on a subway station in Yuen Long, beating protesters, passersby and journalists with sticks.

Demonstrators accused the police of colluding with the triads – claims angrily denied by the police.

The authorities say they have arrested 12 people over the attack, including nine men with links to triads.

The anti-extradition protests have morphed over time into a wider movement.

While the government has paused work on the extradition bill, protesters now want it withdrawn completely, as well as an independent inquiry into police violence, and democratic reform.

They want the territory’s leader, Carrie Lam, who is not democratically elected, and whose handling of the crisis has been widely criticised, to resign.

Some protesters have also expressed their anger at the mainland Chinese government, which they say has been eroding freedoms in Hong Kong.

Last week, demonstrators stormed the Chinese government’s office and defaced the national emblem.

The authorities have now installed a protective casing around the sign.

 

Zainab Sa’id