Tear gas fired in latest Hong Kong clashes

Hong Kong police fired multiple tear gas rounds on Saturday night in confrontations with black-clad activists in the city's Kowloon area, as the Chinese-controlled territory was again rocked by anti-government protests.

Police had kept out of sight during the afternoon as tens of thousands of protesters marched through Mong Kok, usually a busy shopping district. But they charged onto the streets after 9pm, with hundreds of officers in riot gear pushing back crowds who jeered them.

At around midnight in Wong Tai Sin, a residential area, protesters hurled umbrellas and other objects at police, who responded with pepper spray and then tear gas.

Throughout the evening in Kowloon, police confronted protesters who retreated and regrouped. Some were detained.

Protests against a proposed bill allowing people to be extradited to stand trial in mainland China have grown increasingly violent since June, with police accused of excessive force and failing to protect protesters from suspected gang attacks.

On Saturday, protesters set fires in the streets, outside a police station and in rubbish bins, and blocked the entrance to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, cutting a major artery linking Hong Kong island and the Kowloon peninsula.

"I've never seen anything like this. The protesters are right, but they shouldn't be violent," said Ray, 57, a retired hotel worker who came from his flat on a side street near where police and protesters were in a stand-off.

"The government should listen to the people and what they need," he said.

In a statement issued after midnight, the Hong Kong government said it "strongly condemns the radical protesters."

After the afternoon march, protesters had dispersed to different parts of Kowloon, setting up barriers across busy streets to block traffic. Many carried hiking sticks and some held homemade shields.

Protesters, many masked and wearing helmets and goggles, have adopted increasingly sophisticated tactics.

"We don't stay in the same place. We are using hit-and-run tactics," said a construction worker in Mong Kok who called himself "Water".

"If the police are too strong, we will leave. They are a rock, so we must be like water," he added, echoing a refrain of Hong Kong martial arts legend Bruce Lee that has been taken up by activists.

Organisers said 120,000 people joined the rally. Police said 42,000 people had joined the march at its peak.