Police fired tear gas at black-clad protesters across Hong Kong on Saturday after they set fire to metro stations and vandalized buildings including China’s official Xinhua news agency in some of the worst violence to hit the city in weeks.
Earlier, police had also used tear gas in a downtown park where thousands of protesters - many angry at what they say has been a heavy-handed police response over five months of anti-government demonstrations - had gathered on a sunny afternoon.
Small groups of masked protesters then fled to the Central business district, through streets lined with banks and top-end jewelry and fashion stores, setting light to ramshackle street barricades and hurling petrol bombs as riot police and water cannon trucks closed in.
Protesters are angry at perceived Chinese meddling with Hong Kong’s freedoms, including its legal system, since the city returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997. China denies the charge.
Just as a crowd of largely peaceful demonstrators finished making origami paper cranes in Chater Garden, a cricket pitch in colonial days, activists began throwing petrol bombs on the streets outside, in front of the headquarters of HSBC and the Hong Kong base for the Bank of China.
Police again responded with tear gas on what was the 22nd straight weekend of protests.
Protesters later set fire to entrances of metro stations — often targeted as services close down to stop people gathering — and hauled two telephone booths out of the ground to erect one of many flaming barricades. Cat-and-mouse clashes continued into the night as protesters retreated to the Causeway Bay area and across the water to the northern Kowloon side.
Some shops and businesses were also vandalized including an outlet of American coffee chain Starbucks and the offices of China’s Xinhua news agency.