Fresh political violence broke out in Hong Kong on Sunday night as riot police baton-charged anti-government protesters seeking to keep the pressure up on the city’s pro-Beijing leaders, after a mass rally outside a train station linking the finance hub to mainland China.
Hong Kong has been rocked by a month of huge marches as well as separate violent confrontations with police involving a minority of hardcore protesters, sparked by a law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
Sunday’s clashes came hours after the first demonstration since young, masked protesters stormed parliament on Monday, plunging the city into an unprecedented crisis.
The extradition bill has been suspended following the backlash.
But that has done little to quell public anger, which has evolved into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous city.
Earlier on Sunday tens of thousands of people snaked through streets in the harbour-front district of Tsim Sha Tsui, an area popular with Chinese tourists, ending their march at a high-speed train terminus that connects to the mainland.
The march was billed as an opportunity to explain to mainlanders in the city what their protest movement is about given the massive censorship that Beijing’s leaders wield.
It passed without incident.
But late Sunday police wielding batons and shields charged protesters to disperse a few hundreds demonstrators who had refused to leave.
AFP reporters saw multiple demonstrators detained by police after the fracas, their wrists bound with plastic handcuffs.
By early Monday only pockets of demontrators remained with police occupying key intersections around the protest area.
The scene of the clashes — Mongkok — is a densely-packed working class district, which has previosuly hosted running battles between police and anti-government protesters in 2014 and 2016.
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Hong Kong enjoys rights unseen on the mainland, including freedom of speech, protected by a deal made before the city was handed back to China by Britain in 1997. But there are growing fears those liberties are being eroded.
Sunday’s clashes marred what had been an otherwise peaceful day of mass rallies aimed at reaching out to mainland Chinese visitors.
Organisers said 230,000 people marched while police said 56,000 attended at the peak.
“We want to show tourists, including mainland China tourists what is happening in Hong Kong and we hope they can take this concept back to China,” Eddison Ng, an 18-year-old demonstrator, told AFP.
– Agence France-Presse