148 arrested, 800 tear gas rounds fired during Monday's protests in Hong Kong: Police

148 arrested, 800 tear gas rounds fired during Monday's protests in Hong Kong: Police

Police charge protesters in the shopping district of Causeway Bay in Hong Kong
Police charge protesters in the shopping district of Causeway Bay in Hong Kong. (Photo: AFP/Isaac Lawrence)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police on Tuesday (Aug 6) said 148 people were arrested and about 800 tear gas rounds were fired during running battles with protesters the day before.

The arrests represent the largest daily toll since huge pro-democracy protests kicked off two months ago.

On Monday, Hong Kong buckled under a general strike followed by the most widespread and sustained clashes so far with tear gas fired at more than a dozen locations against increasingly violent hardcore protesters.

"During the operation yesterday, the police arrested 148 people consisting of 95 males and 53 females, aged between 13 and 63," Superintendent John Tse told reporters.

READ: Hong Kong protests - a roundup of rallies, clashes and strikes on Aug 5

Hong Kong clashes on Aug 5
Map showing all the clashes in Hong Kong on Aug 5, 2019. (Graphic: Rafa Estrada)

Over the last two weeks, both police and protesters have resorted to increasingly confrontational tactics, plunging the city into crisis.

At Tuesday's press conference, police revealed that they fired about 800 tear gas rounds on Monday - almost as many as the 1,000 rounds they said they had fired throughout the whole of the last two months.

READ: Key dates as peaceful rallies against extradition Bill turn to violent clashes

Riot police also discharged 140 rubber bullets and 20 sponge rounds.

The press conference revealed details of how widespread Monday's battles were against the police - who have become a lightning rod for public anger and are derided by protesters as Beijing's enforcers.

Throughout Monday, police stations came under attack from protesters hurling stones, eggs, bottles and using slingshots that fired bricks. An apartment complex that houses police officers and their families also came under attack.

Tse said a total of 21 police stations were "affected" by Monday's protests - although it was unclear if all of them were besieged.

Media documented tear gas being fired in at least a dozen districts on Monday.

"Within two short months, the rioters have recklessly destroyed the rule of law. Their acts have seriously hampered public safety," Tse said.

Protesters have countered that police have long been using excessive violence against their movement - accusations the force denies.

They also said that they were forced to adopt more confrontational tactics after peaceful rallies failed to win any concessions.

READ: Masked Hong Kong protesters hold rare press conference

Donning high-visibility vests, reporters covering the press conference staged a brief protest at its start, repeatedly tapping their pens on tables and helmets as a fellow journalist read out a statement.

"We strongly condemn police for abusing their force and obstructing the reporting by journalists," a reporter said on behalf of the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

The group released a statement earlier on Tuesday saying "police have continued to obstruct reporting by aiming high beam lights at cameras ... intentionally chase-beating them and aiming tear gas cannisters directly at them".

"The situation is growing increasingly out of control," it added.

Monday's protests also disrupted at least eight lines on the Mass Transit Railway (MTR), while hundreds of flights in and out of Hong Kong airport had to be cancelled due to the general strike.

China's central government on Tuesday responded with a strongly worded warning to Hong Kong protesters, urging them not to underestimate "the immense strength of the central government".

"We would like to make clear to the very small group of unscrupulous and violent criminals and the dirty forces behind them - those who play with fire will perish by it," said a document attributed to representatives from the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, which is overseen by China's Cabinet, the State Council.

"At the end of the day, they will eventually be punished."

READ: China warns Hong Kong protesters: "Those who play with fire will perish by it"

READ: China reiterates support for Hong Kong's embattled leader

A semi-autonomous city under China's rule, Hong Kong has plunged into chaos after weeks of clashes between protesters and police officers.

The protests were triggered by opposition to a planned law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. It has since evolved into a wider movement for democratic reform.

READ: "Hong Kong has no future like this" - Singaporeans living in Hong Kong share their concerns about escalating protests

Source: Agencies/jt(hm)

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