At least 72 demonstrators and 21 officers have been injured as mass protests against changes to Hong Kong’s extradition law took a violent turn.
Riot police fired rubber bullets, bean bags and tear gas to push back the mostly unarmed youth massed outside Hong Kong’s parliament, before chasing them away with batons and pepper spray.
Some protesters ran away, rubbing their irritated eyes and chanting “Retract! Retract!”, referring to the new laws, as police made continued advances on the crowds donned in surgical masks.
At least 50 men and 22 women, aged between 15 and 66 were taken to hospital, the BBC reported. Two people were in serious condition and 19 others were stable.
Some 21 officers were confirmed injured in the clashes with protesters, with nine being taken to hospital according to the South China Morning Post.
US President Donald Trump played down the clashes, saying he was confident Hong Kong and China would be able to resolve their differences.
“I hope it all works out for China and for Hong Kong,” Mr Trump said Wednesday during a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda at the White House. “I’m sure they’ll be able to work it out.”
Amnesty International said Hong Kong police have violated international law by using excessive force against “overwhelmingly peaceful protesters”.
Man-Kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said officers have “taken advantage of the violent acts of a small minority as a pretext to use excessive force against the vast majority”.
“Tear gas and projectiles like rubber bullets are notoriously inaccurate and indiscriminate and can result in serious injury and even death,” Mr Tam said in a statement.
On Sunday, more than a million people marched in protest against the controversial bill, which would allow China to bring people from Hong Kong to the mainland for trial.
The protests have forced the government to delay discussing the bill, which is expected to pass despite public opinion because Beijing controls a majority of the legislature.
That didn’t stop tens of thousands of protesters from showing up Wednesday, aiming to obstruct legislative procedures by blocking access to the building.
Hundreds of demonstrators had already arrived at the complex by Tuesday night, some of them church members who sang hymns facing police, waving white flowers in the air.
“We are singing because we want to say that although the government is ruling us, above them there is a Lord who sees what’s happening, who is just, and who knows they lie and everything they do,” said Ryan Tsang, a 26-year-old participant.