Chaos across Hong Kong as police get tough on pro-democracy protestors

Hong Kong police fired tear gas and water cannons on Saturday and pro-democracy protesters threw petrol bombs in the latest in a series of chaotic clashes that have plunged the Chinese-ruled city into its worst political crisis in decades.

Police fired round after round of tear gas and protesters took cover behind umbrellas between the local headquarters of China's People's Liberation Army and the government. Protesters also threw bricks dug up from pathways at police.

Many shops and restaurants in protest areas popular with tourists were shuttered, while curious visitors peered out from windows of some luxury hotels overlooking the demonstrations.

Protest numbers had dwindled by the early hours of Sunday, with just a few hundred demonstrators and some riot police visible.

The water cannon unleashed blue-dyed water, to make it easier for police to identify protesters.

Riot police use water cannons with blue-dyed water
Riot police use water cannons with blue-dyed water. Photo credit: Reuters

Riot police then marched on foot toward the neighboring Admiralty district, followed by 20 police cars, where protesters had thrown fire bombs from flyovers, some landing close to police. Others shone blue and green lasers at police lines.

There were unconfirmed reports of an off-duty policeman being wounded.

In the neighboring Wanchai bar and restaurant district, police fought running battles with protesters, some beating them with truncheons, according to Reuters witnesses. There were several arrests.

"We have to keep protesting, we cannot let China take back Hong Kong now," said Evelyn, a 25-year-old asset manager, chanting "gangster" at police outside a subway station across the harbor from the central business area in Kowloon district.

Asked what she would do if authorities did not respond to protesters' demands, she said: "Maybe I will leave Hong Kong. I absolutely cannot live under Chinese rule."

Police are cracking down on the ongoing protests.
Police are cracking down on the ongoing protests. Photo credit: Reuters

"I was at home but when I saw them beating and arresting anyone they saw on the train I rushed down," said Joanna Wong, one of several hundred people shouting abuse at riot police blocking one subway station. "I will keep protesting even if I go to jail," she said, her voice shaking with emotion.

The protests, which at one point blocked three key roads, came on the fifth anniversary of a decision by China to curtail democratic reforms and rule out universal suffrage in Hong Kong, a former British colony that was returned to China in 1997.

"The behaviors of the radical protesters gravely breach the public peace and pose a serious threat to the safety of police officers on duty and members of the public at the scene," the government said in a statement.

The People's Liberation Army on Thursday rotated its troops in Hong Kong in what it said was a routine operation. Their Hong Kong HQ was the former base of the British military garrison.

Senior Chinese officials have warned that if the turmoil persists, "the central government must intervene".

Police were targeting MTR subway trains to make arrests, with TV footage showing people being beaten as they cowered on the floor behind umbrellas. Some rail lines were closed.



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