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Protests hit HK again, even amid China's calls for tough laws

HONG KONG: On the same day the Chinese authorities said the lack of tough security laws in Hong Kong is a key reason for the violence, police fired tear gas to break up rallies as black-clad activists blocked roads and trashed shopping malls across the New Territories.

Yesterday was the 24th straight weekend of anti-government protests.

As China described the need for such laws as an "urgent task", pro-democracy protesters vandalised a train station in the central new town of Sha Tin and smashed a restaurant perceived as being pro-Beijing, overturning banqueting tables and breaking glass panels.

Violence spilt out onto the streets of Tuen Mun outside V city mall, with running battles between riot police and protesters.

The rail station was closed in Sha Tin, amid scuffles between police and protesters young and old, on a day of planned shopping mall protests throughout the territory. Shopping districts across the harbour on the main island were quiet.

"Radical protesters have been gathering in multiple locations across the territories," police said in a statement.

"They have been loitering in several malls and vandalising shops and facilities therein, neglecting the safety of members of the public."

Protesters daubed graffiti and damaged shops at Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong and "stormed" shops in Tsuen Wan, police said.

They made several arrests at Festival Walk, where fistfights broke out and people hit each other with sticks.

The protesters are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the city's freedoms.

China's call for tough security laws was issued by Mr Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office yesterday.

He acknowledged that governance in the city must be improved but also backed a firmer hand, saying laws banning subversion and other challenges to Chinese central government control were needed. - REUTERS, AFP

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