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HK protesters moot Bank of China ‘stress test’ after latest clashes

More clashes break out in Hong Kong as online groups plan more demonstrations

HONG KONG : Anti-government protesters in Hong Kong began circulating plans yesterday to "stress test" the Bank of China in their bid to keep pressure on the city's pro-Beijing leaders, after five people were arrested after clashes with police on Sunday night.

The city has been plunged into its worst crisis in recent history following a month of huge marches as well as separate violent confrontations with police involving a minority of hardcore protesters.

The rallies were sparked by a now-suspended law that would have allowed extraditions to China, but they have since morphed into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory.

Yesterday, online groups were already planning more protests on encrypted messenger apps and chat forums that have been successfully used by demonstrators to bring out huge crowds.

One proposal going viral was a call to collectively withdraw funds from the Bank of China this Saturday to "stress test" the organisation's liquidity.

Shares in the bank were down about 1 per cent yesterday in line with the broader market.

The state-owned Bank of China's towering Hong Kong headquarters is one of the most recognisable buildings in the territory's skyline and the organisation is one of three banks licensed to issue its own notes.

Sunday night saw fresh political violence break out in the district of Mongkok as police baton-charged small groups of masked, largely young protesters who were walking along roads and refused to disperse following another massive, peaceful rally earlier in the day.

Police said the group were taking part in an "unlawful assembly" and had been warned that officers would take action.

Some protesters resisted and police arrested five people for assaulting a police officer and obstructing a police officer in the execution of duties, a statement said yesterday.

Another protester was arrested earlier in the day for failing to provide identification during a stop and search.

Activists hit out at the police tactics, saying the protesters had remained peaceful as they made their way home and that violence was started by a shield wall of riot officers that had blocked the crowd's path.

"HKers joined rally peacefully... against extradition Bill result in being beaten and assaulted by HK Police," democracy activist Joshua Wong wrote in a tweet accompanying pictures of at least two protesters with bleeding head wounds.

"Just another example of excessive force used by police," he added in another tweet.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is planning to speak to reporters tomorrow, her first appearance in over a week. - AFP

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