A large protest in Hong Kong was ended by police when clashes broke out between protesters and plainclothes officers Sunday.
Organizers originally applied for a permit to march which was denied by police. Authorities allowed organizers to hold a rally if they agreed to stay in once place.
But roughly 10,000 protesters gathered and some began clashing with police on Sunday afternoon when officers in nearby streets in the Central District began to perform stop and searches. Protesters reportedly threw water bottles and paint at the officers, leading to police calling off the rally. A statement from the police said that protesters attacked and injured two officers with umbrellas and batons, leaving them with bloody head injuries.
In an apparent new tactic, police have been showing up ahead of time in riot gear, with officers conducting "stop and search" operations near expected demonstrations.
"Everyone understands that there’s a risk of stop-and-search or mass arrests. I appreciate Hong Kong people still come out courageously, despite the risk,” said organizer Ventus Lau.
On Jan 1, a march of tens of thousands of people ended with police firing tear gas to disperse crowds.
The gathering in the park was initially relaxed, with many families with children listening to speeches by activists.
In one corner, a group of volunteers set up a stand where people could leave messages on red cards for the lunar new year to be sent to those who have been arrested. One read: “Hong Kongers won’t give up. The future belongs to the youth”.
Authorities in Hong Kong have arrested more than 7,000 people, many on charges of rioting that can carry jail terms of up to 10 years. It is unclear how many are still in custody.
Anger has grown over the months due to perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip over the city, which was handed over to China by Britain in 1997 in a deal that ensured it enjoyed liberties unavailable in the mainland.
Beijing denies meddling and blames the West for fomenting unrest.