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Hong Kong protesters defy police with new rallies

Thomas Peter, Reuters | An anti-extradition bill protester reacts after tear gas was fire by the police during a demonstration in Tai Wai in Hong Kong, China, August 10, 2019.

Police in Hong Kong fired tear gas on Saturday at pro-democracy protesters as they defied warnings to cancel a march and blocked intersections in several parts of the city.

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The fresh demonstrations came after the city's leader pledged she would not grant concessions to the protesters as their movement enters its third month.

Activists gathered on Saturday afternoon in the city's Tai Po district to stage a march despite police denying them a permit, facing off against officers who held up signs warning: "Disperse or we may use force."

But before any clash could break out, the protesters pulled back and began heading to different parts of the city.

One group gathered in the Sha Tin neighbourhood, where last week riot police and protesters fought pitched battles inside a luxury shopping complex.

Another group headed to the Tai Wai district, where they began dismantling railings along the road to set up barricades.

"Today is not about standing off with police or guarding a road. It's more about going to different places and leaving once police get here," said a 17-year-old student protester who gave only his surname, Lok.

"We won't meet eye-to-eye and will actually create more trouble for them," he told AFP.

But the riot police quickly moved in and began firing tear gas, sending demonstrators running to the sides of streets and into a nearby bus terminal.

The gas drifted into the nearby subway station, where a mother and child covered their faces along with other travellers caught in the confrontation.

'P is for protest'

The fresh protest marks the 10th weekend that demonstrators have taken to the streets in a movement that began in opposition to a bill allowing extradition to mainland China but has become a call for greater democratic freedoms.

Demonstrators were also staging a second day of protests in the city's airport and hundreds of parents and children gathered for an all-ages family rally.

Faye Lai attended with her three-year-old niece and said she hoped the demonstration would help children understand the recent tumult.

"Hong Kong's future is theirs. We are fighting for rights that children should have," Lai told AFP.

Many attendees held balloons and a leaflet was circulated featuring a "Hong Kong Protest ABC", offering "demonstration" for the letter D, and "protest" for P.

The colourful and calm atmosphere at the rally was a far cry from the increasingly violent confrontations that have marked recent protests.

Demonstrators have committed to continuing their rallies with Lam insisting she would not meet their demands, which include direct election of the city's leader and an investigation into police violence.

"I don't think we should just sort of make concessions in order to silence the violent protesters," Lam said on Friday.

"What is right for Hong Kong... is to stop the violence, and to say no to the chaotic situation that Hong Kong has experienced in the last few weeks, so that we can move on."

Beijing warns airline

She warned that the protests were causing economic chaos -- an accusation that protesters dismissed.

"The protests were created by Lam, since the beginning," said a woman who gave only her surname, Lo, as she protested in the Tai Po neighbourhood.

"Every time she comes out she only condemns (protests), but offers no solution."

"If Hong Kong's political system regresses and becomes like the mainland, even without protests or chaos, it wouldn't be able to attract people to invest and do business," added a student, who gave only his surname, Chan.

Beijing has thrown its support behind Lam and warned protesters that "those who play with fire will perish by it".

China's aviation regulator on Friday ordered Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific to turn over information on staff working on mainland-bound flights, warning that all personnel involved with or supporting "illegal protests" would be banned from flying to the mainland or through Chinese airspace.

It was not clear how the ban would be enforced and there was no immediate reaction from the airline.

(AFP)

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