HONG KONG: Hong Kong police used pepper spray and batons early on Monday (Jul 1) against anti-government protesters who had taken over a key road as the city marks the anniversary of its handover to China.
Riot police swooped on protesters who had blockaded a street in the Wanchai district, an AFP reporter at the scene said, with at least one female protester seen bleeding from a head wound.
READ: Hong Kong protesters take over roads in rally on handover anniversary
The clashes before Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam delivered a speech at a reception to mark the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule.
The event had been scaled back and barriers erected around the square over fears that anti-government protesters might try to disrupt the event.
Hong Kong has been shaken by huge demonstrations in the past three weeks, when protesters have demanded the withdrawal of a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.
READ: Confrontations after rally to support Hong Kong police
Tensions spiked once more in the financial hub as dawn broke on Monday after small groups of mainly young, masked protesters seized three key thoroughfares, deploying metal and plastic barriers to block the way.
Riot police with helmets and shields faced off against protesters in the Admiralty and Wanchai districts of the city.
Although Hong Kong was returned from British to Chinese rule on Jul 1, 1997, it is still administered separately under an arrangement known as "one country, two systems".
The city enjoys rights and liberties unseen on the autocratic mainland, but many residents fear Beijing is already reneging on that deal.
Pro-democracy activists have organised a march every handover anniversary, calling for greater democratic freedoms - such as the right to elect the city's leader.
They have mustered large crowds in recent years - including a two-month occupation in 2014 - but have failed to win any concessions from Beijing.
This year's rally comes against the backdrop of unprecedented anti-government protests over the past three weeks that have drawn millions and anger over police using tear gas and rubber bullets to clear crowds.