Police used several water canon trucks to disperse protesters, spraying jets of blue-dye into the crowds and sending hundreds fleeing
Hong Kong riot police and protesters exchanged tear gas and petrol bombs on Sunday as an illegal anti-government march that attracted tens of thousands descended into chaos, with hundreds of shops trashed and Chinese banks and metro stations targeted.
After two weeks of relative calm, the major rally showed that the pro-democracy campaign has not lost support and that hardcore protesters will continue to clash with police.
"You can see Hong Kongers won’t easily give up their right to demonstrate today’s turnout is more than I expected," said Daniel Yeung, an unemployed protester.
"You can see that as long as people keep coming out in large numbers we are safe and can keep fighting,” he said.
Hong Kong has been battered by months of often massive and violent protests over concerns that Beijing is tightening its grip on the city, the worst political crisis since Britain handed the city back to China in 1997.
Another night of confrontation in #HongKong. Protesters defying mask ban; targeting ATMs and shops linked to mainland #China, setting barricades and fires. Police using tear gas and water cannons. Mong Kok wavers between standstill and anxiety. @NBCNews pic.twitter.com/a1dFmV19zd— Janis Mackey Frayer (@janisfrayer) October 20, 2019
Protesters threw petrol bombs at the Tsim Sha Tsui police station on Kowloon peninsula after police inside fired volleys of tear gas to disperse demonstrators on the street.
Others erected fiery barriers on Nathan Road, a major retail strip in the Kowloon district, as riot police, shields in front, marched towards them, while others fired tear gas.
Police used several water canon trucks to disperse protesters, spraying jets of blue-dye into the crowds and sending hundreds fleeing. Police have used the blue dye to identify protesters.
It was the heaviest use of water canons by police and many people hit with the water developed coughs, suggesting an irritant may be mixed with the water.
As riot police advanced protesters fell back to their next barricade, unlike past rallies when they stood and clashed with police, throwing petrol bombs and bricks.
Along the march route, protesters trashed metro stations and hundreds of shops, throwing goods onto the streets. Several Chinese banks were targeted.
Protesters have in the past targeted Chinese banks and shops with links to mainland China, leaving mainland Chinese living in Hong Kong worried about their safety.
One trashed shop on Sunday had notices left on its shutters saying it was attacked because it was owned by mainland Chinese mobs who had attacked innocent people. "We never rob. We don't forgive. We don't forget", said the notice.
By nightfall only small groups of protesters remained, with one group throwing petrol bombs down a street towards police who responded with tear gas. Large numbers of riot police guarded several intersections.
Police said they had seized more than 40 petrol bombs that they believe may have been en route to the protest.
They said protesters had set fire to numerous road barriers and trashed shops in several Kowloon districts. Police detonated what they said was an explosive device surrounded by broken bricks and left in the middle of a street.
The unrest was sparked four months ago by a bill that would have allowed extradition to mainland China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts. It has since widened into a pro-democracy movement.
The protests in the city pose the biggest popular challenge to China's President Xi Jinping since he took power. Beijing has denied eroding Hong Kong's freedoms and Xi has vowed to crush any attempt to split China.