Police have opened fire on thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong with a water cannon and tear gas as a second day of violent protests has rocked the Asian financial hub.
Violence escalated on Sunday after tens of thousands of anti-government protesters marched in torrential rain, regrouping under a sea of umbrellas after clashes a day earlier that prompted police to fire tear gas for the first time in more than a week.
While a large crowd rallied in a nearby park, another group of protesters took over a main street, strewing bamboo poles on the pavement and lining up orange and white traffic barriers and cones to try to obstruct the police.
After hoisting warning flags, police used tear gas to try to disperse the crowd.
riot police are charging at protesters and made at least a few arrests. #hongkongprotests
— Fion Li (@fion_li) August 25, 2019
Protesters responded by throwing bricks and petrol bombs toward the police.
The result was a scene of small fires and scattered paving bricks on the street between the two, rising clouds of tear gas and green and blue laser lights pointed by the protesters at the police.
The Chinese-ruled city’s rail operator, MTR Corp, suspended some services to try to prevent people gathering but protesters made it to a sports stadium in the vast container port of Kwai Chung, from where they were marching to nearby Tsuen Wan.
The latest skirmish comes after Saturday’s march in the industrial district of Kwun Tong, which saw protesters build bamboo barricades and set fires in the streets.
Police said they arrested 29 people, ranging from 17 to 52 years old, for various offenses including unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons and assaulting police officers.
The clashes, while not as prolonged or violent as some earlier ones, ended a brief lull in the violence.
Police used tear gas after some protesters threw Molotov cocktails and bricks and others tore up “smart” lamp posts equipped with surveillance cameras.
The protests had turned largely peaceful the previous weekend, after weeks of escalating violence and multiple closures of the financial hub’s busy international airport.
M Sung, a 53-year-old software engineer in a black mask emblematic of the many older, middle-class citizens at the march, said he had been at almost every protest and would keep coming.
“We know this is the last chance to fight for ‘one country, two systems’, otherwise the Chinese Communist Party will penetrate our home city and control everything,” Mr Sung said.
“If we keep a strong mind, we can sustain this movement for justice and democracy. It won’t die.”
Protesters say they are fighting the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement under which the former British colony returned to China in 1997 with the promise of continued freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.
— Bloomberg TicToc (@tictoc) August 25, 2019