Tens of thousands of Hong Kong protesters defy ban

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong protesters defied a police ban Saturday against the march on the five-year anniversary of Bejing’s decision to limit elections.

Protesters march along a road during an anti-government rally in Hong Kong, China, on Saturday. Hong Kong has been gripped by mass protests since June over a now-suspended extradition bill to China that have morphed into a wider anti-government movement. Photo by Jerome Favre

Demonstrators gathered peacefully at first in central areas of the city, then some clashed with police as they marched toward more government offices and territory’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s home.

Police fired a water cannon with blue dye at marchers to mark them for arrest for unlawful assembly. They also fired tear gas clouding roads outside the government complex.

Protestors wearing helmets, gas mask and protective clothing built a barricade from police with traffic cones, plastic road blocks, bleachers and chain link fences. Some threw petrol bombs from an overpass, which set the barricades on fire while others threw tear gas canisters back towards police.

The clashes were some of the most intense since weekend mass protests, now in their 13th week, started in June over an extradition bill that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial.

The bill has been suspended, but protesters now part of a larger pro-democracy movement demanding universal suffrage and investigation of police, want it permanently withdrawn. The protests have erupted into Hong Kong’s worst political crisis since the British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.

The march followed Hong Kong police arrests Friday of pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, who gained prominence in the Umbrella Movement five years ago against Bejing’s decision five years ago to limit democracy in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Three pro-democracy lawmakers, including Cheng Chung-tai, Au Nok-hin and Jeremy Tan were also arrested Friday, according to police.

On Thursday, pro-independence party leader Andy Chan was also arrested and Hong Kong police informed the Civil Human Rights Front that they would take an unprecedented move to ban Saturday’s protest, citing “serious injuries” among protesters, journalists, officers and bystanders.

BySommer Brokaw