Defying a police ban, protesters rallied through a New Territories town where a mob brutally attacked people last week. Riot police fired dozens of rounds of tear gas to disperse angry demonstrators.
Hong Kong Police on Saturday fired tear gas and rubber bullets to scatter large crowds of protesters demanding action against suspected triad gangs who beat up pro-democracy demonstrators last weekend.
Thousands of people marched through a town in the New Territories close to the border with mainland China, defying a police ban amid concerns about reprisal attacks.
Some protesters chanted anti-police slogans such as "black police" and "know the law, break the law."
Clashes erupted later when riot police tried to disperse protesters at several flashpoints in the northwestern town of Yuen Long.
Police fired dozens of rounds of tear gas and pepper spray and some demonstrators retaliated by throwing projectiles at officers.
In other locations, protesters built barricades from sidewalk railings to prevent police from moving forward.
Police later charged into a train station where hundreds of protesters were taking refuge from the tear gas. Some officers struck demonstrators with their batons while others urged their colleagues to stand down. Blood could be seen splattered on the floor of the station.
Authorities said that they arrested 11 men for offenses ranging from assault, unlawful assembly and possession of an offensive weapon. Some 24 people were taken to hospitals on Saturday for injuries, according to the Hospital Authority.
Suspected triad attack
Public anger has been raging since last Sunday when a gang of men in white t-shirts, armed with poles and batons, set upon anti-government protesters and bystanders in Yuen Long station. Forty-five people needed hospital treatment.
Demonstrators say that paid gangs from the local area were responsible for the attacks and accuse the police of not protecting them. Police say they have already made a dozen arrests.
One protester, Ms. Chin, told DW that "police took about 40 minutes to arrive at the station" after the violence broke out last Sunday, even though the police station is just a short drive away.
A second protester, Mr Wong, said the police's slow reaction made him "suspect some sort of collusion with the triad gangs, or at least they turned a blind eye."
The New Territories is a more rural area of Hong Kong where many of the surrounding villages are known for links to the triads and their staunch support for the pro-Beijing establishment.
Saturday's rally marked the eighth consecutive week of protests in the former British colony. The demonstrations first erupted last month in opposition to plans by the local government to allow the extradition of suspected criminals to China.
The mainland's justice system is widely criticized as lacking independence and respect for human rights.
Those marches saw more than a million people take to the streets, prompting the territory's leader, Carrie Lam, to put the proposed bill on hold.
Since then, the movement has grown to include demands for direct elections, the dissolution of the current legislature, an investigation into police brutality and less Chinese interference in Hong Kong affairs.
The movement's leaders have however failed to persuade Beijing or Hong Kong's leaders to change course amid clashes with police and the storming of Hong Kong's parliament in early July by some protesters.
The United Kingdom handed Hong Kong to China in 1997 as part of an agreement that included Beijing's pledge to respect the territory's semi-autonomous status until 2047.
mm, rs/se (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)