By Jessie Pang and Twinnie Siu
HONGKONG (Reuters) – Violence broke out on Sunday across the New Territories of Hong Kong on the 24th straight weekend of anti-government protests, with police firing tear gas to break up rallies as black-clad activists blocked roads and trashed shopping malls.
Protesters vandalised a train station in the central new town of Sha Tin and smashed up a restaurant perceived as being pro-Beijing, just two weeks before planned district council elections, the lowest tier of voting in the Chinese-ruled city.
Now TV showed pictures of a huge red welt on the upper arm of one of its reporters who said she had been hit by a tear gas canister in Tsuen Wan, to the west of the New Territories.
The rail station was closed in Sha Tin, amid scuffles between police and protesters young and old, on a day of planned shopping mall protests throughout the territory. Shopping districts across the harbour on the main island were quiet.
“Radical protesters have been gathering in multiple locations across the territories,” police said in a statement.
They have been loitering in several malls and vandalising shops and facilities therein, neglecting the safety of members of the public.”
Protesters daubed graffiti on shop fronts in Kowloon Tong and “stormed” shops in Tsuen Wan, police said.
Last weekend, anti-government protesters crowded into a shopping mall when a man slashed people with a knife and bit off part of a politician’s ear.
The protesters are furious at what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the former British colony’s freedoms, guaranteed by the “one country, two systems” formula in place since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
Thousands of people gathered on Saturday night at a vigil for “martyrs”, after a student died in hospital this week following a high fall.
Though the vigil ended peacefully, many attendees called for revenge after the student’s death from injuries sustained during a protest.
Seven pro-democracy city lawmakers have been detained or face arrest and are due to appear in court on Monday on charges of obstructing a May meeting of the local assembly, police and several of the lawmakers said.
“We believe that the government together with the police, as well as the pro-establishment camp, they are trying to escalate the anger of Hong Kong people in order to cancel or even to postpone the upcoming district council election,” Tanya Chan, a pro-democracy lawmaker, told reporters on Saturday.
One of the arrested lawmakers, Gary Fan, said the detentions were the result of “political prosecutions and judicial crackdowns” by Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam.
The elections are due on Nov. 24
Protesters have also called for a general strike on Monday and for people to block public transport, although such calls in the past have often come to nothing.
Protesters have thrown petrol bombs and rocks at police who have responded with tear gas, pepper spray, water cannon, rubber bullets and several rounds of live ammunition. They deny using excessive force.
(Writing by Josh Smith and Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel)