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Fire, tear gas & petrol bombs create chaos in Hong Kong

Fire, tear gas & petrol bombs create chaos in Hong KongA protestor hurls back a tear gas shell at police officers in Hong Kong on Saturday. A large fire blazed across a main street in Hong Kong on Saturday night, as protesters made a wall out of barricades and set it afire. Hundreds of protesters gathered behind the fire, many pointing laser beams that streaked the night sky
Highlights

  • Police have banned the demonstration on security grounds; several key activists and legislators arrested
  • Tens of thousands of protesters -- many in their signature black T-shirts and under a colourful canopy of umbrellas -- defied the order to march on Hong Kong island chanting "reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our times". Violence ricocheted through the city's commercial centre

Hong Kong: Chaos engulfed Hong Kong's financial heart on Saturday night as police fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters who set large fires and threw petrol bombs, defying a ban on rallying -- and mounting threats from China -- to take to the streets for a 13th straight weekend.

Police had banned the demonstration on security grounds and on Friday arrested several key activists and legislators.

But on Saturday afternoon, tens of thousands of protesters -- many in their signature black T-shirts and under a colourful canopy of umbrellas -- defied the order to march on Hong Kong island chanting "reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our times".

As evening fell, violence ricocheted through the city's commercial centre, with a minority of hardcore protesters unleashing a barrage of petrol bombs and rocks at police.

Thick, black smoke swirled from a large fire started by masked demonstrators at a barricade on a major thoroughfare, moments from Hong Kong police headquarters.

The fire was extinguished after half an hour. Earlier, police fired a water cannon and rounds of tear gas to disperse protesters massed in front of the city's parliament, known as the Legislative Council (LegCo), which was stormed in July during the early days of the protest movement.

The crowd briefly broke through the barrier outside the building, but were repelled by tear gas and jets of blue-coloured liquid fired from the water cannon. On Saturday, protesters marched through 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.

Opposition to the extradition bill -- now suspended but not permanently withdrawn -- has brought much of Hong Kong to the streets, with millions marching peacefully but also groups of radical protesters clashing with police.

Protesters were in defiant mood throughout Saturday, which marked the fifth anniversary of Beijing's rejection of a call for universal suffrage for Hong Kong that sparked the 79-day "Umbrella Movement" in 2014.

Many demonstrators are determined not to let the new movement fizzle out like the Umbrella protests did. More than 900 people have been arrested since June in connection to protests.

The European Union's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the developments were "extremely worrying", while US President Donald Trump said his economic pressure on China was forcing Beijing to take a more moderate line on Hong Kong.

The weeks of violence have damaged Hong Kong's reputation for stability and prosperity, while China has responded with a campaign of intimidation. Chinese State media on Friday reported that fresh military anti-riot drills were held across the border in Shenzhen.

In an attempt to sidestep Saturday's protest ban, crowds earlier carried Christian crosses and sang "Hallelujah" in religious gatherings -- which do not require the same stringent permission from authorities.

The demonstrators, who have earned a reputation for their creativity and unpredictability, also called for "mass shopping trips" in the city centre.

On Saturday morning, LIHKG, the Reddit-like forum used by protesters to communicate, reported via Twitter that its app had suffered the "largest attack it has ever seen".

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