HONG KONG - Police fired tear gas in the western district of Tsuen Wan and used pepper spray in malls to disperse protesters gathered in several upscale Hong Kong shopping malls for “flash mob” protests, with some trashing restaurants and cafes.
Violence broke out in several town centres in the New Territories area.
Outside the City Walk mall in Tsuen Wan, police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters and a journalist from local TV station Now TV was hit in the arm. Livestream footage from Apple Daily showed a bruise forming on the woman’s left upper arm as a medic applied first aid.
Some had also trashed several shops in Sha Tin linked to the Maxim Catering Group, including a Starbucks and a Maxim’s restaurant, overturning tables and vandalising the inside of the shops. Their anger at the firm stems from pro-Beijing comments from the founder’s daughter Annie Wu.
Later in the afternoon, footage from local TV showed blood on the ground next to someone getting arrested in the upscale Festival Walk mall in Kowloon Tong.
Angry residents could be seen confronting and heckling police officers in several areas.
In a statement, police condemned the acts warning protesters to “immediately stop their illegal acts”.
Organisers had earlier called for sit-ins in malls across the city, including IFC in the Central district, Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong and New Town Plaza in Sha Tin.
The violence later spread to the Kowloon district of Mong Kok. A police statement said that a large group of radical protesters gathered on Shantung Street and Nathan Road in Mong Kok and set fire on barricades.
The water cannon truck was deployed to clear the protesters. Police also made several arrests near Shantung Street, local broadcaster RTHK reported.
Over at Tseung Kwan O, police fired rubber bullets and beanbag rounds at a small group of protesters at the Kwong Ming Housing estate, according to local TV footage.
The estate is near the multi-storey carpark where University of Science and Technology undergraduate Alex Chow Tsz Lok apparently suffered a fall last week. He sustained severe head injuries and died last Friday - the first death linked to the ongoing unrest in the city.
Last week, similar gatherings at several malls across the city resulted in fierce clashes with the police. The violence escalated after a man attacked a family with a knife and later bit off part of the ear of a district councillor.
On Saturday, thousands gathered on the waterfront Tamar Park for an approved rally where they prayed and listened to speeches. Saturday's rally was in stark contrast to Friday evening, where several vigils in various districts descended into confrontations with police after protesters started building barricades on roads and tossing bricks at police officers.
Protesters have issued a call for a strike on Monday, and for others to disrupt traffic across the city at the crack of dawn.
Similar calls recently have met with little success.
Meanwhile, police officers intending to get married are now facing a boycott in the wedding industry. Photographers, make-up artists and gown rental companies have issued a statement saying they would not accept bookings from police officers until an independent commission is set up to investigate alleged policy brutality in the face of the protests.
"Unfortunately it has come to the point where it is no longer viable for us to provide our genuine blessing to any clients from the police force during their wedding, as incidents involving potential police misconduct re-occur on a daily basis," said the statement which was widely shared on social media. "We can no longer turn a blind eye to such events."
Hong Kong has been gripped by five months of unrest sparked off by a government move to introduce a controversial extradition Bill.
The Bill has since been withdrawn but the protest movement has evolved into one calling for greater democracy and investigations into alleged police brutality.