China's top Hong Kong policy office will on Monday address the escalating protests in the semi-autonomous city over the past eight weekends.
The unrest reached fever pitch Sunday when riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters as the two groups fought pitched battles in residential areas. It was the second day of protests in a row amid the deepening political crisis that shows few signs of deescalating.Beijing's office dealing with Hong Kong and Macau affairs will give its first briefing on the issue from the Chinese capital at 3 p.m. local time Monday.
On Sunday, protesters defied police orders to march through the center of the city, with groups splintering in different directions and blocking major roads. Many wore black, the adopted color of the protest movement, and carried signs condemning alleged police brutality.
Riot police confronted hundreds of mainly young protesters who tried to reach the Chinese government's Liaison Office. During demonstrations last weekend, activists vandalized the building and flung paint at the national emblem, drawing a furious reaction from Beijing.
The situation quickly deteriorated. Police fired multiple rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, turning nearby streets into smoke-filled battlegrounds. Protesters, many of whom had armed themselves with improvised shields and bamboo sticks, fought back, hurling bricks, eggs and other objects at police lines. The two groups continued in a tit-for-tat struggle, with protesters at one point setting a cart on fire and pushing it in the direction of police.
The violence brought much of central Hong Kong to a standstill, as tear gas permeated the air forcing shops to shut and trapping residents inside buildings. In the residential area of Sheung Wan, many people were left stranded after the subway suspended west-bound services and major thoroughfares were closed.
Sunday marked the eighth consecutive weekend of mass demonstrations in Hong Kong. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets since the protests began two months ago, plunging the city into its most serious political crisis since its return to China in 1997.Originally sparked by opposition to a controversial and now-shelved bill that would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to China, the demonstrations have evolved to include calls for greater democracy, an independent investigation into alleged police brutality and the resignation of the city's leader, Carrie Lam.
Demonstrators on Sunday initially met in Chater Garden in downtown Hong Kong, close to the Hong Kong government headquarters. Police had approved the rally but denied protesters' application to march through the city, citing the "high" risk of violent clashes -- the second time authorities have rejected a protest permit following a ban on yesterday's march in Yuen Long.
Ventus Lau, 25, one of the organizers of Sunday's protest, called the police decision "unreasonable," saying such logic would prevent "peaceful protests" in the future.
"This is a serious threat to our freedom of expression in Hong Kong," Lau added.