HONG KONG: Hong Kong police on Wednesday (Aug 14) night fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters who had gathered outside a police station in the residential area of Sham Shui Po in Kowloon.
Police shot several rounds of tear gas at protesters who had been shining laser beams at the police station in a demonstration billed as a "religious laser light vigil".
Police armed with riot shields and batons marched down streets in the blue-collar neighbourhood.
Officers carried warning flags and fired tear gas as they advanced, but protesters had already scrambled away.
Earlier in the evening, protesters burnt joss paper on the streets outside the police station, ringing bells as part of a religious ritual during the Hungry Ghost Festival, when offerings are made to ward off spirits of ancestors.
Among the items burnt were pieces of "hell money" bearing the image of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam.
Last week, the Sham Shui Po district was the scene of a protest against police after they arrested a university student leader for buying laser pointers, which police said were being used as a weapon against them.
Increasingly violent protests have plunged the Asian finance hub into its most serious political crisis in decades, posing a challenge to the central government in Beijing.
The scuffles broke out in the evening between police and protesters, after an injured person was taken out of the main terminal by medics.
Scenes of protesters beating two men accused of being infiltrators sparked debates and soul-searching within the movement over whether a minority of radicals are undermining their cause.
One was accused of being a mainland police officer and another of being a spy masquerading as a journalist.
Both were detained, had their arms and legs bound by zip-ties and were beaten until crowds of fellow demonstrators and firemen managed to usher them to waiting ambulances.
"After months of prolonged resistance, we are frightened, angry and exhausted. Some of us have become easily agitated and over-reacted last night," one group, which has organised anonymous press conferences featuring protesters, said in a statement emailed to journalists.
"For this we feel pained and dispirited and would like to express our most sincere apologies," the statement added.
"Take a minute to look at our city, our home," Chief Executive Carrie Lam said, her voice cracking, at a news conference in the government headquarters complex, which is fortified behind 1.8m-high water-filled barricades.
"Can we bear to push it into the abyss and see it smashed to pieces?"
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