Tension spikes in HK as police square off with protesters

Hong Kong: Tension flickered across Hong Kong Saturday as riot cops squared off with protesters near a police station in a working-class neighbourhood, as an uneasy peace lasting several days threatened to give way.

Thousands of demonstrators, many wearing hard hats and gas masks, marched through the industrial Kwun Tong area, where they were blocked by dozens of riot police with shields and batons.

Protesters pulled together a barricade of traffic barriers and bamboo construction poles, while shouting at the rank of police.

Hong Kong’s police force have become the target of the protesters’ ire for their perceived heavy-handed response to the months of demonstrations.

Antipathy has soared towards the police, who have used baton charges, rubber bullets and tear gas against hardcore protesters, but are also accused of beating peaceful demonstrators.

The city has for now pulled back from what appeared to be a nosedive into violence, with the last serious clashes taking place a week and a half ago.

But tension rippled across Saturday’s march, where a number of frontline radical demonstrators known as “braves” had gathered.

“I’ve never seen Hong Kong in such a situation,” 65-year-old Dee Cheung told AFP.

“The youngsters who come out have put their future at stake… they are doing this for Hong Kong.

“There might be some things we don’t agree with, like the ‘braves’ who tend to charge. But let’s think about why they do that?”

Protests started against a proposed law that would have allowed extradition to China, but have bled into wider calls for democracy and police accountability in the semi-autonomous city.