Violent scenes erupted across Hong Kong on Saturday night, as the MTR closed five lines and police fired two live rounds in Causeway Bay.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Local media reported that the warning shots were fired as police were conducting arrests in Causeway Bay. HKFP witnessed police being aided by people who appeared to be undercover officers dressed as protesters.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

As the violence spilt over into Kowloon, police were also seen charging onto the platforms of Mong Kok and Prince Edward MTR station to conduct arrests.

TV news footage showed riot police beating people with their batons inside train carriages at Prince Edward station and deploying pepper spray, with many passengers seen to be cowering and bleeding.

Photo: TVB screenshots compiled by StandNews.

The government claimed in a statement that protesters were vandalising stations and attacking members of the public and officers had entered MTR stations to “stop all violent acts and arrest offenders.”

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Shortly after 11pm, the MTR Corporation announced that services on Tsuen Wan Line and Kwun Tong Line would be suspended. Near midnight, the rail operator also halted services on the Island Line, South Island Line and Tseung Kwan O line.

The Civil Human Rights Front – a coalition of around 50 pro-democracy groups – cancelled a march scheduled for Saturday. Organisers cited potential clashes between protesters and police, after the force refused to approve the march and after a subsequent appeal was rejected.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Thousands nonetheless took to the streets as police deployed tear gas, sponge grenades and water cannon to clear Hong Kong Island.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Demonstrators, meanwhile, threw Molotov cocktails and bricks at police lines, setting fires as riot police and tactical unit officers cleared them from key thoroughfares.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

In a first for Hong Kong, police water cannon trucks aimed dyed water at protesters near government headquarters in an effort to potentially identify them at a later date.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

As night fell, riot police advanced along Hennessy Road. Near police headquarters, protesters built a huge fire, which was eventually put out by the fire brigade.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

At around 9:30pm, police made arrests on Great George Street outside the Windsor House shopping mall.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Police confirmed with media just before midnight that two live rounds had been fired during the operation, though the precise circumstances remain unclear.

Suspected undercover officers, dressed as protesters, refused to answer HKFP’s questions over their identity.

The incident may mark the second time that such tactics were used by Hong Kong police, after the force admitted undercover officers were used to arrest frontline demonstrators on August 11 in Causeway Bay.

August 31 marks the fifth anniversary of a controversial white paper on Hong Kong democracy handed down by Beijing. The 2014 framework sought to impose restrictions on the city’s small-circle election for its chief executive. It sparked the 79-day occupation movement, popularly known as the Umbrella Movement, but was eventually rejected by lawmakers.

Since June, large-scale peaceful protests against the extradition bill have morphed into – sometimes violent – displays of dissent over Beijing’s encroachmentdemocracy, alleged police brutality, surveillance and other community grievances.

Riot police hold a cordon behind paint-splattered shields at Mong Kok police station. Photo: May James/HKFP.

Police-protester skirmishes continued into the night around the Kowloon’s Yau Tsim Mong district as police deployed tear gas in Prince Edward. Clashes also broke out in Kwun Tong and Lam Tin.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

A government statement issued in the early hours of Saturday condemned protesters: “The illegal and violent acts of the radical protesters continue to escalate with no regard for the safety of members of the public. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government severely condemns these acts. The police shall strictly follow up on them.”

Additional reporting: Jennifer Creery, Tom Grundy, Elson Tong.

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Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.