Defiant Hong Kong protesters clash with police, set fires

The 13th straight weekend of demonstrations turned violent in Hong Kong on Saturday as police fired tear gas and water cannon at anti-government protesters, who responded by throwing petrol bombs and other projectiles.

There were several tense standoffs between the two sides, including outside the Hong Kong government headquarters, where police sprayed blue-dyed water at the protesters in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

The colouring leaves stains and makes the participants potentially easier to identify later.

Officers also shot pepper spray and tear gas towards the crowd.

The protesters retreated and eventually moved towards the police headquarters, where they piled debris and built makeshift barricades on nearby roads.

Protesters lit several of their barricades on fire, with one of them growing into a large blaze that filled the commercial street with smoke.

It was later put out by by firefighters.

There was a pattern on Saturday of young, black-shirted protesters moving into an area of the city, facing off with responding riot police officers, and then staying a step ahead of authorities by making a hasty retreat to somewhere else.

Meanwhile, thousands of other protesters holding umbrellas marched in a procession that took them in a circle around the Hong Kong island’s central business and government districts, in defiance of a police ban.

The march took place in intermittent periods of heavy rain and was planned to mark five years since Beijing failed to grant electoral reform to Hong Kong, prompting 2014’s Umbrella Movement pro-democracy protests.

The authorities did not grant authorisation for the rally but protesters came out anyway.

“It is a memorial day for us, that’s why we gather together to fight together for our right.

”Unfortunately, our legal right has been banned.

“We will do it without their permission because this is a human right,” said protester Beatrix Wong.

Police presence was heavy with officers creating roadblocks to direct protesters away from government landmarks while a number of police vehicles were spotted across Hong Kong island.

In anticipation of protests, Hong Kong’s subway system suspended service to the station nearest China’s Liaison office.

Saturday’s protest came the day after nine legislators and activists were charged by police for their role in the anti-government demonstrations, which began on June 9 over a legislative bill that would have allowed for criminal extradition to China.

Protester Jessica Wu said that she thought the government was attempting to create a climate of fear to keep people from protesting.

“I think they want to create a ‘white terror’ … to stop us from coming out or exercising our rights,” she told dpa, using a term that refers to past episodes of political repression. 

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