Hong Kong police fired tear gas Saturday at protesters after they defied officials’ calls to stop a march in a neighborhood where a mob brutally attacked demonstrators six days ago in a train station.
Protesters wearing black streamed through Yuen Long even as police declined permission for the march, citing potential risks of clashes between local residents and protesters.
The march comes after white-clad assailants attacked dozens of people last Sunday night, including some demonstrators who were heading home after the latest mass protest in the summer-long pro-democracy movement.
Authorities said the train station attackers were connected to triad gangs and others were villagers who live in the area.
But less than three hours after the start of the march on Saturday, police fired tear gas in a bid to disperse the crowd.
“Hong Kong police know the law and break the law,” protesters chanted as they made their way through the streets.
The government released a statement warning the protesters that police would move in to break up the demonstration and accused the protesters of “holding iron poles, self-made shields and even removing fences from roads,” and that some had vandalized a police vehicle with officers inside.
Protesters hoist a U.S. flag as they face off with riot police at the entrance to a village at Yuen Long district in Hong Kong Saturday, July 27, 2019. Thousands of protesters began marching Saturday despite police warnings that their presence would spark confrontations with local residents. Demonstrators wearing black streamed through Yuen Long, the area where a mob brutally attacked people in a commuter rail station last Sunday. (AP Photo/Bobby Yip)
An earlier government statement also said that the police forces feared a “possible deterioration of the situation.”
“Police appeal to members of the public to stay calm and leave the area as soon as possible as a chaotic scene may ensue within a short period of time,” the earlier statement read.
The latest protest follows the massive demonstrations that began in Hong Kong last month against an extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to face trial in mainland China.
Critics warned that the bill would compromise the precious rights of Hong Kong and break the agreement that guaranteed the city’s autonomy from the Chinese communist government.
Protesters rally in Yuen Long in Hong Kong Saturday, July 27, 2019. Thousands of protesters began marching Saturday despite police warnings that their presence would spark confrontations with local residents. Demonstrators wearing black streamed through Yuen Long, the area where a mob brutally attacked people in a commuter rail station last Sunday. (AP Photo/Bobby Yip)
The protesters succeeded in getting the bill suspended, but activists used the opportunity to push for further pro-democracy policies, including direct elections, the dissolution of the current legislature and an investigation into alleged police brutality in the Chinese territory.
A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under the framework of “one country, two systems.” The arrangement promised that the city will have certain democratic freedoms that are not afforded mainland citizens.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.