World

Hong Kong police fight protesters in mall

By AAP Newswire

Police in Hong Kong have fought with protesters as they broke up a demonstration by thousands of people demanding the resignation of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's chief executive and an investigation into complaints of police violence.

The protest that began about 3pm local time on Sunday in the northern district of Sha Tin was peaceful during the afternoon.

Some carried signs reading "Police Are Liars". Other signs read "Defend Hong Kong". Others carried American, British or colonial-era Hong Kong flags.

About 8.30pm, police in green fatigues with helmets and shields cleared the streets by walking shoulder-to-shoulder towards the intersection. Some protesters threw bricks but most withdrew peacefully and watched the police.

Many protesters appeared to leave the area while others, many wearing helmets and surgical masks, retreated into a shopping complex.

Police followed them, and reporters could see the two sides along walkways of several floors of the complex hitting each other with umbrellas and grabbing each other's helmets.

The violence wound down as most of the remaining protesters fled to an adjacent subway station and left aboard crowded subway trains.

Organisers said 110,000 protesters took part, while police put the number at 28,000, according to broadcaster RTHK.

A government statement said the afternoon march was "peaceful and orderly" but that afterward some protesters "violently assaulted police officers".

"Society will absolutely not tolerate such violent acts," the statement said.

The protests reflect mounting complaints that Hong Kong's leaders are eroding the freedoms and autonomy promised when the territory was returned to China in 1997.

The protests began last month in opposition to a proposed extradition law but have swelled to include complaints about an influx of mainland Chinese into Hong Kong and that Chief Executive Carrie Lam's government has failed to address the needs of its people.

Communist authorities have tried to discredit the protesters by saying unidentified "Western forces" are inciting them to destabilise Hong Kong. Protesters deny foreigners have had any role in the demonstrations.

On Sunday, protesters demanded an investigation into complaints that police assaulted participants in earlier demonstrations against the extradition law.

Lam's government suspended action last month on the extradition bill, which would have allowed Hong Kong crime suspects to be transferred to the mainland, where the ruling Communist Party controls the court system.

Lam apologised for her handling of the legislation, but critics are demanding she resign.

"Carrie Lam has been hiding," said Nelson Yip, a man in his forties who joined Sunday's protest.

"She has made many promises, but she has not been able to fulfil them. There is no sign she is going to fulfil them."

On Saturday, police used clubs and tear gas to break up a crowd of mostly young protesters who called for tighter control on mainland traders who visit Hong Kong.

Critics say they are improperly undercutting Hong Kong businesses.

Earlier on Sunday, a group representing Hong Kong journalists marched to Lam's office on Hong Kong island to highlight complaints that police beat and obstructed reporters at earlier demonstrations.

They handed a letter addressed to the territory's police commissioner to an officer.

"It seems that they have deliberately targeted the journalists," said Chris Yeung, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

Police issued a statement promising better training for officers and communication with reporters.