Hong Kong police fight with protesters amid rising tensions

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Protesters with protection gear hold home-made shield as they prepare to face off with policemen in Sha Tin District in Hong Kong (Kin Cheung/AP)

Police in Hong Kong have fought with protesters as they broke up a demonstration by thousands of people demanding the resignation of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s chief executive and an investigation into complaints of police violence.

The protest that began at about 3pm local time in the northern district of Sha Tin was peaceful throughout most of the day.

But some scuffles broke out after nightfall, when police with helmets and shields started clearing streets in the densely crowded area of high-rise buildings.

A policeman scuffles with a protester inside a shopping centre in Sha Tin District in Hong Kong
A policeman scuffles with a protester inside a shopping centre in Sha Tin District in Hong Kong (Kin Cheung/AP)

Hundreds of protesters, many wearing helmets and surgical masks, retreated into a shopping complex, where some threw umbrellas and water bottles at police.

Police followed them, and reporters could see the two sides along walkways of several floors of the complex hitting each other with umbrellas and grabbing each other’s helmets.

The demonstration added to an outpouring of grievances over the past six months against the former British colony’s leaders.

Hong Kong Protests
Police close off a road to prevent protesters from continuing to march in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin District (Kin Cheung/AP)

Critics complain they are eroding Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy and are more responsive to the Beijing government than to the territory’s people.

Protests that began last month in opposition to a proposed extradition law have also swelled to include complaints about an influx of mainland Chinese into Hong Kong.

On Sunday, protesters demanded an investigation into complaints that police assaulted participants in earlier demonstrations against the extradition law.

Hong Kong Protests
A protester holds a placard reading ‘Hold Hong Kong, Hold Kindness’ (Kin Cheung/AP)

Some carried signs reading Police Are Liars. Other signs read Defend Hong Kong.

“There were a lot of large-scale protests and the government has not responded to them,” said one protester, 59-year-old Peggie Cheung.

“The police seem to have become even more violent. I didn’t think this protest would do much to help, but coming out on the streets felt like a responsibility to me.”

The protests reflect mounting complaints that Hong Kong’s leaders are eroding the freedoms and autonomy promised when the territory was returned to China in 1997.

Some protesters carried American or colonial-era Hong Kong flags.

Hong Kong Protests
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam (Vincent Yu/AP)

The government of Chief Executive Carrie Lam suspended action last month on the extradition bill, which would have allowed Hong Kong crime suspects to be transferred to the mainland, where the ruling Communist Party controls the court system.

Ms Lam apologised for her handling of the legislation, but critics are demanding she resign.

“Carrie Lam has been hiding,” said Nelson Yip, a man in his forties who joined Sunday’s protest.

“She has made many promises, but she has not been able to fulfil them. There is no sign she is going to fulfil them.”

On Saturday, police used clubs and tear gas to break up a crowd of mostly young protesters who called for tighter control on mainland traders who visit Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Protests
Several thousand people marched in Hong Kong on Saturday against traders from mainland China (Kin Cheung/AP)

Critics say they are improperly undercutting Hong Kong businesses.

Earlier on Sunday, a group representing Hong Kong journalists marched to Ms Lam’s office on Hong Kong island to highlight complaints that police beat and obstructed reporters at earlier demonstrations.

They handed a letter addressed to the territory’s police commissioner to an officer.

Hong Kong Protest
Journalists hold a banner with the words ‘Stop police violence, defend press freedom’ (Kin Cheung/AP)

“It seems that they have deliberately targeted the journalists,” said Chris Yeung, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

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