World

Several HK cops beaten by pro-democracy protesters

HONG KONG: Several police officers were beaten by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong yesterday as violence erupted at a rally calling for greater democratic freedoms in the heart of the city.

Trouble flared when the police ordered the gathering to disperse from the city's commercial district, with protesters gathering behind shields of umbrellas.

A group of plainclothes officers negotiating with the rally organisers was set upon by masked protesters, who beat them with umbrellas, an AFP reporter on the scene said.

At least two officers were seen with bloody head wounds.

Riot police swept into the area and fired tear gas to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters who gathered in a central Hong Kong park but later spilled onto the streets, briefly barricading roads and spray-painting buildings.

IMPROMPTU MARCH

Out in numbers before the demonstration began, the police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march.

Several units of police in riot gear were seen chasing protesters and several arrests were made.

A water cannon truck drove on central streets, flanked by an armoured jeep, but was not used.

Organisers initially applied for a permit for a march, but the police only agreed to a static rally in the park, saying previous marches had turned violent.

Once protesters spilled onto the streets, they barricaded the roads with umbrellas and street furniture, dug up bricks from the pavement and smashed traffic lights.

"In view of the violent incidents, police officers have asked the organiser to halt the public meeting... and urge participants to... leave the area by public transport," a police statement said.

The Universal Siege Against Communism demonstration was the latest in a relentless series of protests against the government since last June, when Hong Kongers took to the streets to voice their anger over a now-withdrawn extradition bill. - AFP, REUTERS

WORLD