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Hong Kong police fire tear gas as clashes return to city following days of peace

The protests ended a nearly week-long period of peace in the semi-autonomous region.

Riot police move small fires during a protest in Hong Kong today
Riot police move small fires during a protest in Hong Kong today
Image: AP/PA Images

RIOT POLICE IN Hong Kong have fired tear gas and baton-charged pro-democracy protesters during further demonstrations that have broken an uneasy peace in the region that lasted several days.

Thousands of demonstrators marched through the industrial Kwun Tong area on Saturday, when they were blocked by dozens of officers with shields and batons outside a police station.

Frontline protesters pulled together a barricade of traffic barriers and bamboo construction poles, spray-painting walls with insults directed at the police.

As the afternoon wore on, some fired stones from slingshots, prompting a charge from police who wielded batons and pepper spray.

Tears gas swept across the road as protesters retreated, leaving a trail of broken bottles and at least one small fire in their wake.

Several protesters were detained as officers swept through, with police justifying their charge on “a large group of violent protesters” who had set fires and hurled bricks at cops.

hong-kong-protests A demonstrator uses a squirt gun to try and write on a fallen smart lamppost during a protest in Hong Kong Source: AP/PA Images

Tension flickered throughout the march, where dozens of the most radical demonstrators known as “braves” had gathered, battle-hardened by a three-month street campaign.

“I understand being peaceful will not solve the problem,” 19-year-old student protester Ryan told AFP, giving one name.

“The government won’t respond to peaceful protest. If I am arrested it is because I come out to speak for justice.”

Peaceful marches

The city had appeared to have pulled back from a sharp nosedive into violence, with the last serious clashes taking place a week and a half ago just after protests paralysed the financial hub’s airport.

Hundreds of thousands marched peacefully last Sunday, as another protest group sought to regain the moral high ground in a city shocked at the level of violence.

But Saturday’s clashes underscored the deadlock into which the city has sunk as the government refuses to move in the face of protester demands, and demonstrators stubbornly refuse to leave the streets.

The protests started against a proposed law that would have allowed extradition to China, but have bled into wider calls for democracy and police accountability in the semi-autonomous city.

Hong Kong’s police force have become the target of protests for their perceived heavy-handed response to the months of demonstrations.

Protesters also say Hong Kong’s unique freedoms are in jeopardy as Beijing tightens its political grip on the city.

- © AFP 2019

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