Hong Kong on security alert as thousands march in fresh wave of protests
Tear gas also used as Hong Kong demonstrators deface Beijing Liaison Office
HONG KONG Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters in chaotic scenes late last night as anger over an extradition bill morphed into protests against what many residents see as a broader erosion of freedoms by Beijing.
Millions have taken to the streets in the past two months against Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, triggering the worst social turmoil to rock the former British colony since it returned to Chinese rule 22 years ago.
Black-clad activists, many wearing masks, defied police orders and marched beyond the official end-point of a rally that took place earlier in the day as they made their way towards the Liaison Office, in a direct challenge to authorities in Beijing.
Some protesters threw eggs at the walls of the Liaison Office, while others spray-painted graffiti. Hundreds of riot police faced off with protesters, firing rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them as police and ambulance sirens echoed through the crowds.
Activists had daubed graffiti on massive concrete pillars leading up to Beijing's Liaison Office in the city, with the words "Restore Hong Kong, Revolution of Time".
Yesterday's protest, which had proceeded peacefully along the official route up to that point, is the latest in the unrest that has plunged Hong Kong into political crisis.
Protest organisers said 430,000 attended yesterday's rally. Police put the number at 138,000 at its peak.
The demonstrations show no sign of let-up, posing the greatest popular challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he took power in 2012.
"The police are terribly worried, I understand, about possible scuffles, clashes... violence around the government and legislative complexes and the police headquarters," said pro-democracy legislator Claudia Mo.
Authorities used water-filled barriers to barricade government and police headquarters, while global bank HSBC pulled down large metal shutters on the street level of its gleaming skyscraper building.
The latest protest comes a day after tens of thousands gathered to voice support for the police, whom some have accused of using excessive force against activists, and demand an end to the violence.
Yesterday's march focused on calls for the full withdrawal of the extradition bill, which would allow people to be extradited to mainland China for trial, and an investigation into complaints of police brutality.
Other demands include charges against protesters to be dropped and universal suffrage.
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