HONG KONG – A fresh protest banned by Hong Kong authorities saw protesters clash with riot police on Sunday, with tear gas fired to disperse the crowd.
At least a dozen people were arrested and several ambulances were at the scene of the demonstration, according to local media.
There is no official information about the number of arrests or injured.
Participating in an illegal demonstration is punishable in Hong Kong by between three and five years imprisonment and fines.
Clashes between police and protesters were particularly tense on Sunday.
Thousands of people had gathered at 3 pm local time (07.00 GMT) in Chater Park, in the heart of the island’s financial district, for a rally that was approved by the authorities.
A request from organizers to hold a march had been rejected because of the risk of violence.
Both the rally and the improvised march were protesting against police action in recent weeks, amid allegations that the authorities have responded excessively to the protests.
Officers were also accused of failing to act on 21 July when demonstrators were attacked during an event in the Yuen Long neighborhood.
Around 45 people were injured when they were attacked inside a subway station by a mob clad in white and armed with bamboo poles and metal bars, suspected to be members of Chinese organized crime groups known as triads.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of people joined a march in the neighborhood, also unauthorized, which resulted in at least 23 injured and 13 arrested, including one of the organizers.
Many of the protesters left the authorized zone on Sunday and formed groups that went in various directions until, at around 5 pm, the two main factions stopped in the commercial area of Causeway Bay.
The police presence was particularly numerous in this second zone, since a week ago vandalism was committed against the nearby headquarters of the Liaison Office, the official body representing Beijing in Hong Kong.
Some protesters threw stones and other objects at riot police and began to display banners with notices such as “Stop loading or we will use force,” “Disperse or shoot” and “Be careful, tear gas.”
Campaigners, who built barricades with fences, plastic barriers and street signs, tried to protect themselves with umbrellas while backing away from police charges.
Elsewhere, security forces accused some demonstrators of throwing a cart full of burning cartons at officers and causing deliberate fires in various parts of the area.
Dressed in black, the protesters chanted “Police, you should be ashamed” and carried banners with slogans such as “Free Hong Kong” and “Stop the violence.”
This was a new chapter in the demonstrations that began in early June against a controversial proposed extradition law to China.
Although the head of the local government Carrie Lam declared the contentious law “dead” at the beginning of the month, activists were not satisfied and have continued to flood the streets of the city for the past eight weekends.
It has led to broader demands on the democratic mechanisms of the city, whose sovereignty was recovered by Beijing in 1997 with the commitment to maintain until 2047 the structures established by the British.