Hong Kong riot police fired volleys of tear gas to try to disperse thousands of protesters, many wearing now-banned face masks, who converged on the Kowloon harbor front on Sunday to denounce perceived police brutality over months of unrest.
Police arrived early, warning protesters to leave the tourist district of Tsim Sha Tsui, opposite the British colonial-era Peninsula Hotel, forming cordons and blocking traffic on the key artery of Nathan Road.
The number of protesters had been growing by the minute, streaming down Nathan Road to the water’s edge, facing the dramatic skyline of Hong Kong island opposite, but many fled after the tear gas and pepper spray were fired.
Police detained some protesters as they gathered, many yelling while police used loud-hailers to warn others away.
The rallying cry of the protesters was also for the protection of “Muslims, journalists and the people.”
A police water cannon fired bursts of blue-dyed water at a small group of people outside a mosque during protests in Tsim Sha Tsui last Sunday, drawing criticism from some in the Muslim community.
Pro-democracy activists have in recent weeks attacked police with petrol bombs and rocks and slashed one officer in the neck with a knife. Police have responded with tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and occasional live rounds, wounding several protesters and a few journalists.
Police deny accusations of brutality, saying they have shown restraint in life-threatening situations. There had been a week-long lull in clashes.
Protesters are angry about what they see as creeping Chinese interference in Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula intended to guarantee freedoms that are not enjoyed on the mainland.
China denies meddling. It has accused foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of inciting the unrest.