Hong Kong protesters threw petrol bombs and lit fires as police responded with tear gas and water cannons in the 13th week 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 on Saturday.
Protesters also threw bricks dug up from pathways at police.
The water cannons unleashed blue-dyed water, often used elsewhere to make it easier for police to identify protesters.
Riot police then marched on foot towards the neighbouring Admiralty district, followed by 20 police cars, where protesters had thrown fire bombs, 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 a savage assault on suspected protesters, a troop of riot police invaded a subway carriage – footage captured and broadcast by local TV.
— RT (@RT_com) August 31, 2019
In the neighbouring Wanchai bar and restaurant district, police fought running battles with protesters, beating them with truncheons. There were several arrests.
Celia Liu, who offers emotional counselling to protesters, watched riot police form a barrier across one of the world’s busiest shopping districts, Causeway Bay.
“We don’t know how to stop this, how to stop the violence … the young are emotional and we just can’t stop it,” she said.
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 government said rashly embarking on political reform again will further polarise society, “which is an irresponsible act”, according to the government news.gov.hk website.
“It noted any discussions on constitutional development have to be premised on the legal basis, and be conducted under a peaceful atmosphere with mutual trust in a pragmatic manner,” the website said.
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 arrested a number of prominent pro-democracy activists and three lawmakers on Friday, seeking to rein in a movement that began with anger over planned legislation allowing extraditions to mainland China.
It soon broadened into calls for democracy amid fears China is squeezing Hong Kong’s freedoms.
But the latest protests have no leaders. The slogan is “be like water”, meaning be flexible.