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HK cops fire rubber bullets as protests turn violent

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More than 10 injured as protests against extradition Bill descend into violent chaos

HONG KONG : Hong Kong police yesterday fired rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators who threw plastic bottles as protests against an extradition Bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial descended into violent chaos.

Tens of thousands of protesters had gathered peacefully outside the city's legislature before tempers flared, some charging police with umbrellas.

Police warned them back, saying: "We will use force."

Ambulances sped towards the protest area as panic spread, with many people trying to flee the stinging tear gas, according to a Reuters witness. More than 10 people were wounded in the clashes, Cable TV reported.

Police used pepper spray, tear gas and batons to force crowds back. Some shops put up their shutters at the nearby International Finance Centre.

Civil Human Rights Front, which organised a protest against the Bill on Sunday that it estimated saw more than a million people take to the streets, accused police of using unneeded violence.

The protesters had erected barricades as they prepared to hunker down, in scenes reminiscent of pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014.

The violence had died down by early evening under light rain, but tens of thousands still jammed the streets in and around Lung Wo Road, a main east-west artery near the offices of embattled Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam.

"Didn't we say at the end of the Umbrella movement we would be back?" pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said, referring to the name often used for the 2014 demonstrations.

"Now we are back!" she said, as supporters echoed her words.

Others once again called for Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to step down.

The government said debate on the Bill that was due to take place yesterday would be delayed until further notice.

Ms Lam yesterday called the extradition law protests an "organised riot".

In a strongly-worded three-minute video, Ms Lam said: "This is not an act that shows love for Hong Kong... Some people resorted to dangerous, or even potentially fatal, acts."

She added that while there are different views on the extradition Bill, issues involving China and Hong Kong have been used by some people to cause conflict.

"But intense confrontation is absolutely not the solution," she said, urging people to be calm.

China reiterated its support for the legislation.

When asked about rumours that more Chinese security forces were to be sent to Hong Kong, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said it was "fake news". - REUTERS, THE STRAITS TIMES