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Warning shots fired under 'serious threat' to officers' lives: Hong Kong police

Warning shots fired under 'serious threat' to officers' lives: Hong Kong police

Hong Kong police run past debris set alight by protesters in Causeway Bay on Aug 31, 2019, as people demonstrate, defying a ban on rallying. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police on Saturday (Aug 31) confirmed that two officers had fired warning shots into the air while under "serious threat" to their lives while responding to the latest anti-extradition Bill demonstration at Victoria Park.

"Two police officers were surrounded and attacked by a large group of violent protesters who once attempted to snatch police pistols," Hong Kong police said in a statement on Sunday.

"With their lives under serious threat, the officers fired two warning shots into the sky to protect their own safety."

READ: Hong Kong protesters plan to disrupt airport after night of chaos

In photos: Fire, tear gas and petrol bombs as Hong Kong is gripped by another weekend of chaos

Police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest in Hong Kong, China August 31, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Chaos engulfed the heart of Hong Kong late Saturday, as police fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters who defied a ban on rallying, set fires, and hurled petrol bombs.

Riot police entered several MTR underground metro stations in an attempt to arrest protesters, after a ban on rallying in the city centre was defied.

TV footage showed people being beaten as they cowered on the floor behind umbrellas. Five rail lines were closed. 

Police shoot pepper spray as they try to detain protesters inside a train at Prince Edward MTR Station in Hong Kong on Aug 31, 2019. (Photo: Ring Yu/HK01 via AP)

Video on social media showed people - believed to be protesters - being arrested en masse inside a train carriage at a metro station as they left demonstrations. Police later confirmed the arrest of "radical protesters" at two city stations.

Police said that a number of the stations had been "vandalised".

"Some protestors even hurled miscellaneous objects and iron railings into MTR railroad and committed arson inside MTR station, completely disregarding the safety of other passengers," said the police statement.

Three stations - Mong Kok, Prince Edward and Kowloon Bay - were still closed for investigations and an evidence search as of Sunday morning.

"With such escalating violence and progressively lethal weapons of protestors, the safety of police officers and other members of the public is seriously threatened," police said in the statement.

On Saturday afternoon tens of thousands of protesters under a colourful canopy of umbrellas - many in their signature black T-shirts - marched through 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 riot police.

A protester uses a shield to cover himself as he faces policemen in Hong Kong, Saturday, Aug 31, 2019. (Photo: AP/Jae C. Hong)

The crowds grew after dusk in Wanchai, where demonstrators built roadblocks and banged iron sticks. Firemen battled a huge blaze outside a Methodist church in the main Hennessy Road where water cannon moved in.

The fire was extinguished as demonstrators were pressed into the neon-lit shopping hub of Causeway Bay, under a hail of tear-gas rounds and sporadic firing of rubber bullets.

There were also standoffs in North Point and Fortress Hill, to the east of Causeway Bay, and police fired tear gas at fire-bomb throwing protesters over the harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Police - some undercover, dressed as protesters - made numerous arrests as the night deepened into a cat-and-mouse chase across the city.

Police also fired tear gas at protesters who gathered outside government headquarters on Saturday. 

A protestor throws back an exploded tear gas shell, as police fire blue-colored water from water cannons in central Hong Kong, Saturday, Aug 31, 2019. (Photo: AP/Jae C. Hong)

A water cannon with blue-dyed liquid was used briefly on a hardcore group of protesters who were throwing rocks and were armed with shields. Blue-dyed water is traditionally used elsewhere in the world to make it easier for police to identify protesters later.

Other protesters started fires, threw petrol bombs and pointed lasers at riot police as they smashed down a barrier erected around the government's parliament building.

The hospital authority said Sunday that 31 people were admitted with injuries following the clashes, including five who remain in a serious condition.

Protesters were preparing to demonstrate again on Sunday, with plans to rally at a bus terminal outside the city's airport, with disruption also expected at train stations enroute to the airport.

There have been frequent clashes between protesters and police, who have fired tear gas and rubber bullets amid accusations of excessive force.

This protester outside of Hong Kong's Legislative Council uses an extra-strength slingshot to launch a brick AFP/Lillian SUWANRUMPHA
Police detain a protester at Causeway Bay in Hong Kong late on August 31, 2019 AFP/Lillian SUWANRUMPHA

"A lot of people from the outside think it is the police who escalate (the violence) first," a police officer told a media briefing. "This is not true."

An off-duty policeman was attacked on Friday night by three unidentified men with a knife, suffering wounds to his limbs and back, police said. The news was a top-trending topic on China's Twitter-like Weibo.

The protests in Hong Kong have gone on for three months, sometimes turning violent, and have targeted the airport, the legislature and the Liaison Office, the symbol of Chinese rule.

Saturday's clashes came on the fifth anniversary of Beijing's rejection of a call for universal suffrage in the semi-autonomous city, sparking the 79-day Umbrella Movement in 2014.

READ: Flouting police ban, Hong Kong protesters flood city streets

READ: Messaging app Telegram moves to protect identity of Hong Kong protesters

The latest clash between police and demonstrators marked the 13th straight weekend of protests.

With Hong Kong facing its first recession in a decade, speculation has grown that the city government may impose emergency laws, giving it extra powers over detentions, censorship and curfews.

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

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Source: CNA/agencies/nh(hm)


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