Hong Kong protesters battle cops, torch hundreds of shops

HONG KONG –  Riot police and protesters exchanged tear gas and petrol bombs yesterday as an illegal anti-government march of tens of thousands descended into chaos, with hundreds of shops trashed and torched.

After two weeks of relative calm, the major rally showed the pro-democracy campaign has not lost support, and that hardcore protesters will continue to clash with police.

“You can see Hong Kongers won’t easily give up their right to demonstrate… today’s turnout is more than I expected,” said Mr Daniel Yeung, an unemployed protester.

“You can see that as long as people keep coming out in large numbers, we are safe and can keep fighting.”

Hong Kong has been battered by months of often massive and violent protests over concerns that Beijing is tightening its grip on the city, the worst political crisis since Britain handed the city back to China in 1997.

Concerned about the violence that could erupt, as with previous protests, police had banned yesterday’s march. But it failed to deter an estimated 35,000 people showing up clad in black, some wearing masks and some with families in tow.

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