Police fire water cannon, tear gas as HK protesters mass outside parliament
Police fired water cannon and tear gas at Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters massed outside the city’s parliament on Saturday, as demonstrators defied a ban on rallying, the arrests of leading activists and rising threats from China, to take to the streets for a 13th straight weekend.
Police had banned the demonstration on security grounds, then organisers had cancelled it, after last weekend saw some of the most violent clashes in months of political turmoil.
But large crowds, many in their signature black T-shirts and under a colourful canopy of umbrellas, snaked through Hong Kong island anyway, blocking roads in the financial heart and chanting “reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our times.”
Tensions rose as the afternoon wore on, with hardcore protesters throwing rocks, setting fires — and shining laser pens — at a rank of police behind a barricade at the city parliament known as the Legislative Council (LegCo).
Police fired a water cannon and rounds of tears gas to disperse the group, as protesters dug up the pavement to use as projectiles and crouched under umbrellas.
As dusk drew in, protesters smashed through the barrier outside the parliament building.
The LegCo was stormed on July 1 — the 22nd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule.
Earlier protesters marched by the official residence of Hong Kong’s embattled Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam, who is the focal point of anger after trying to pass a bill which would have allowed extradition to China.
“I’m prepared for the consequences of coming out,” said one protestor, who gave his name as Jay, adding “Hong Kongers have the right to assembly.”
Opposition to the extradition bill — now suspended but not permanently withdrawn — has brought much of Hong Kong to the streets.
The protests have expanded into a wider pro-democracy call and a rejection of attempts by Beijing to curtail the freedoms of the semi-autonomous territory.