Hong Kong yesterday descended into chaos as strikes and protests crippled traffic and forced flight cancellations amid a dire warning from Chief Executive Carrie Lam that the city had been pushed into "extremely dangerous" territory.
Officers in riot gear spent most of the day battling anti-extradition protesters who had either surrounded police stations or built barricades on the roads in at least 10 different areas. The protesters were sent fleeing after police fired rounds of tear gas at them.
Yesterday was the largest-scale act of civil disobedience that the city had experienced since mass protests against a controversial extradition Bill escalated in early June.
Hundreds of thousands heeded a call to industrial action, with many businesses either closed for the day or running on skeleton staff.
Thousands had streamed to Tamar Park in Admiralty for a rally around lunchtime, just next to the government headquarters.
But after a group spilled onto Harcourt Road, a main thoroughfare running through the city, police started firing tear gas to disperse the crowd, who retreated towards the shopping district of Causeway Bay, where they lingered on the blocked roads until late.
From there, groups of protesters headed to North Point, paralysed traffic, fought with white-clad men armed with sticks, pelted rocks at the district's police station and faced rounds of tear gas.
Over in Tsim Sha Tsui, protesters removed China's national flag at the waterfront and threw it into the sea, while others started fires outside police stations in Sha Tin and Tuen Mun.
"Flash mobs" assembled quickly in some locations to block the roads or spray graffiti before moving fast to the next location.
Mrs Lam again rejected calls for her to resign, and said the go-vernment would be resolute in maintaining law and order. She warned that the protests were putting the former British colony on a path of no return and had hurt its economy.
"They claim they want a revolution and to restore Hong Kong. These actions have far exceeded their original political demands," said Mrs Lam.
Operations at Hong Kong International Airport were severely disrupted after around a hundred anti-government protesters held a demonstration there, in support of the city-wide strike. This led to more than 200 flight cancellations in the morning.
Officials from China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council are slated to speak to the media today in Beijing about the "current situation in Hong Kong".
This is the second time China is holding a news conference after a rare media event last week in which it threw its support behind the Hong Kong government.
The police said yesterday that 420 people have been arrested since June 9. Aged 14 to 76, the suspects were arrested for offences including illegal assembly, assaulting police and rioting.
Police have fired 160 rubber bullets, 150 foam bullets and more than 1,000 rounds of tear gas since June 9 during operations to disperse protesters.
Hong Kong shares were hit hardest in Asia yesterday, with the Hang Seng Index sinking 2.9 per cent on the biggest slide in three months. The MSCI Hong Kong Index closed down 3.2 per cent on a ninth day of declines, matching the longest streak since the 1997 handover.