Fierce clashes between pro-democracy protesters and police have broken out in parts of Hong Kong in the most widespread violence yet again Chinese rule as its Communist Party celebrated its 70th year in power.
Local media reported that police fired live bullets in the Tsuen Wan area, injuring a protester. There was no immediate comment from police.
A security clampdown to thwart violence that would embarrass Chinese President Xi Jinping failed to deter the protests, including a massive march in the city centre.
Organisers said at least 100,000 people marched along a broad city thoroughfare in defiance of a police ban, chanting anti-China slogans and some carrying Chinese flags defaced with a black cross.
Many demonstrators tossed wads of fake “hell” bank notes usually used at funerals into the air. “The leaders who won’t listen to our voice, this is for them,” said marcher Ray Luk.
Thousands of people confronted police in multiple locations across the city, the largest number of simultaneous protests since the unrest began in early June over a now-shelved extradition bill that activists say was an example of how Hong Kong’s freedoms and citizen rights are being eroded.
The movement has snowballed into an anti-Chinese campaign with demands for direct elections for the city’s leaders and police accountability.
The smell of tear gas and smoke from street fires started by protesters engulfed the Wan Chai, Wong Tai Sin, Sha Tin, Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan and Tsim Sha Tsui areas. Protesters hurled petrol bombs, bricks and other objects at police, who responded with volleys of tear gas.
Protesters used umbrellas as shields and threw tear gas canisters back at officers. Police said protesters used corrosive fluid in Tuen Mun, injuring officers and some reporters.
In Wong Tai Sin, a petrol bomb hurled at police exploded near motorcycles parked along a pavement, creating a large blaze that was put out by firefighters. Some protesters placed an emergency water hose down a subway station to try to flood it.
A water cannon truck sprayed blue water, used to identify protesters, to disperse crowds from advancing to government offices in the city. Scores of police officers also stood guard near Beijing’s liaison office as the battles continued.
“Today we are out to tell the Communist Party that Hong Kong people have nothing to celebrate,” said activist Lee Cheuk-yan as he led the central march.
“We are mourning that in 70 years of Communist Party rule, the democratic rights of people in Hong Kong and China are being denied. We will continue to fight.”
Activists carried banners saying “End dictatorial rule, return power to the people”.
The protests contrasted with Beijing’s anniversary festivities marked with a colourful parade and display of new missile technology.
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, who was in Beijing for the ceremony, smiled as a Hong Kong float passed by.