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HK cops fire multiple rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets at protesters

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HK police clash with protesters, as anger among crowd simmers and boils over

HONG KONG The Hong Kong authorities stepped up security and fired tear gas around China's main representative office yesterday as several protests broke out, with anger among the crowds simmering over what many see as increasing violence against them.

Protests over the past two months spearheaded by pro-democracy activists against a proposed Bill that would allow people to be extradited from the city to stand trial in courts in China have grown increasingly violent.

A march on Saturday against a violent assault the previous weekend by suspected triad gang members, ended in violent turmoil as riot police waded in to disperse crowds.

On Sunday, a gathering in a park in the city's central business district began spilling into surrounding roads and black-clad protesters set off in several directions, clogging up major thoroughfares.


Thousands of people headed east towards the shopping district of Causeway Bay, while another large contingent headed west, towards the Chinese government's representative office, known as the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government.

There, hundreds of riot police blocked activists from advancing towards the building, which had been heavily fortified with water-filled plastic barricades. A clear plastic shield had been erected around a national emblem above its front doors.

Police fired multiple rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in a densely populated neighbourhood nearby.

The protesters, wearing helmets, gas masks and body armour, responded with bricks, eggs and other objects, hunkering behind makeshift barricades and umbrellas.

Many hit metallic surfaces with sticks to create a loud beat that sounded down the streets.

The office has become a focus for the anger of protesters alarmed by what many see as Beijing's increasing control despite guarantees of autonomy under a "one country, two systems"governing formula.

Last Sunday, protesters took police by surprise with a swoop on the office, scrawling graffiti and throwing paint bombs at walls, the national emblem and a plaque.

Chinese officials described the vandalism as a challenge to the central government's authority which would not be tolerated.

"Everyone knows very well that the current Hong Kong government has been controlled by some outside forces, like those in the Liaison Office," said an activist surnamed Chan.

"Now Hong Kong doesn't even have basic freedom of assembly. We have come here to make a symbolic expression."

China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has warned that the protests over the proposed legislation allowing extraditions to China were an "undisguised challenge" to the formula under which it is ruled.

Many of the marchers on Sunday chanted slogans against the police.

"I have been to every protest and I never wear a mask," said Mr Phong Luk, wearing a Spider-Man suit to match one worn by his six-year-old son.

"I am doing nothing wrong. It is those in power that are wrong ... At this point, there is nothing to be done except for Carrie Lam to step down, because she obviously cannot rule." - REUTERS