Rival Protesters Clash at Hong Kong Rallies

Clashes erupted Saturday between rival groups in Hong Kong in the latest round of demonstrations that began with calls for democratic reforms in the semiautonomous Chinese territory.

The skirmishes broke out shortly after pro-democracy demonstrators gathered at a plaza in the Kowloon Bay area, where hundreds of pro-Beijing demonstrators were singing the Chinese national anthem and waving red flags.

Groups of people exchanged blows and some attacked opponents with umbrellas. Online videos showed a group of men attacking a group of primarily younger victims with large flag poles, kicks and punches, prompting onlookers to run away.

Baton-wielding police moved in to break up the violence, considered minor compared to previous weeks when pro-democracy demonstrators attacked the legislature’s headquarters, set street fires, trashed subway stations and clashed with police.

There was also a sit-in student protest Saturday at a downtown public square and a pro-democracy march in the northwestern suburb of Tin Shui Wai.

Saturday’s clashes occurred after several nights of peaceful rallies at shopping malls by supporters of the months-long pro-democracy demonstrations.

They have continued despite the Hong Kong government’s promise to withdraw extradition legislation that sparked protests. Dissenters have since broadened their demands for the direct election of their leaders and police accountability.

The protesters saw the bill that would have allowed some Hong Kong criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial as an example of the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy since the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.

More than 1,300 people have been arrested since the demonstrations began in early June.

The increasingly violent demonstrations have further damaged Hong Kong’s economy, which had already been weakened by the U.S.-China trade war.

Source: Voice of America