Hong Kong protest turns violent as forces use rubber bullets, tear gas
Clashes break out as police try to stop demonstrators from storming the city's parliament
Hong Kong: Violent clashes broke out in Hong Kong on Wednesday as police tried to stop protesters storming the city's parliament, while tens of thousands of people blocked key arteries in a show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China. Many of those who have taken to the streets say they feel this is their last chance to protect the city's freedoms after years of slow strangulation by Beijing.
Police beat back demonstrators — most of them young people and students — first with batons and pepper spray, then firing rubber bullets and bean bag rounds — small fabric bags filled with lead pellets — and dozens of rounds of tear gas as they cleared one side of the surrounded parliament building.
Protesters carry an injured comrade (C) in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Pics/AFP
Clashes broke out shortly after 3:00 pm (0700 GMT) — the deadline protesters had given for the government to abandon the controversial bill — and continued throughout the afternoon in the worst political violence the city has seen in years. Rows of riot police battled protesters — many wearing face masks, helmets or goggles and using umbrellas as shields — who had gathered in the centre of the city ahead of a scheduled debate in the city's legislature, calling for authorities to scrap the Beijing-backed law.
That debate had to be rescheduled "to a later date" after huge crowds seized major roads outside parliament. The scenes echoed the pro-democracy "Umbrella Movement" of 2014 where protesters calling for greater democratic rights shut down swathes of the city for two months and battled police but won no concessions from China.
Hong Kong's police chief Stephen Lo defended his officers, saying they had shown restraint until "mobsters" tried to storm parliament. "These protesters threw metal barricades and bricks at us bricks," he said. Authorities said 22 people were injured, with wounded police and protesters seen being carried away.
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