Police fired tear gas and brought an approved anti-communist rally to a premature halt in Central on Sunday, as thousands remained gathered around Chater Garden.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Several plainclothes officers were beaten as they negotiated with organisers shortly after 4pm. Masked protesters beat them with umbrellas, leaving at least two with bloody head wounds, according to AFP.

“I cannot see any police brutality.” Photo: Tom Grundy.

Rallygoers fled into the Admiralty and Central MTR stations as riot police then swept into the area, though several station exits had been closed.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Earlier in the week, police had given permission for a static rally but had banned demonstrators from marching to Causeway Bay.

Photo: United Social Press.

The event was originally approved to continue until 10pm.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Protests erupted last June over a now-axed extradition bill. They have escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Crowds swell

Sunday’s rally began just before 3pm as speakers called for global sanctions against the Chinese Communist Party.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

US President Donald Trump signed legislation supporting Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters last November.

Photo: Kevin Cheng/United Social Press.

Ahead of the rally, riot police staged stop and search actions around Central with all three water cannon trucks parked nearby.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Demonstrators chanted for the disbandment of the police force and vowed “revenge.” They also sang the protest anthem Glory to Hong Kong.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The gathering marked the first large-scale protest in a fortnight, a week after Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen won a second term in a fresh blow for Beijing.

“Reclaim Hong Kong, Revolution of our times.” Photo: Tom Grundy.

“We are gathered here today to tell the world that the Chinese Communist Party is violating human rights, religion and democratic development without shame – and without fear,” an organiser told the crowd.

Photo: Kevin Cheng/United Social Press.

Activist Ventus Lau told the crowd: “If there is any chaos, it will be caused by the police.”

Photo: United Social Press.

Attendee Mr Cheung told HKFP that he had been protesting since last June: “I watch TV – there is so much injustice everywhere. The police brutally hit protesters who have the right to protest,” he said.

Mr Cheung. Photo: Tom Grundy.

“What will we do this year? I don’t think the gov’t is stepping back… The most important demand is to release all arrested protesters.”

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Chaos erupts

As crowds swelled, black-clad demonstrators began digging up bricks and vandalising traffic lights in the surrounding roads.

Some set fires and built makeshift barricades, according to RTHK.

A plainclothed officer asked Lau to halt the rally, though Lau only agreed when the officer showed his I.D.

Photo: inmediahk.net.

Several officers were then attacked by nearby protesters.

Photo: StudioIncendo.

“Such appalling acts are not to be condoned,” the force said in a Facebook post.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Tear gas was fired shortly afterwards, as police said that they ordered an end to the rally after some people threw objects at officers and committed acts of vandalism.

Tear gas canisters. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Four arrests were made in Central at around 5:45pm.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Aside from some cat and mouse clashes, most protesters and rallygoers left the scene within 30 minutes.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

In response to the rally, a government spokesperson said that full democracy can only be achieved when there is consensus that the Chief Executive must also be accountable to Beijing under the One Country, Two Systems arrangement.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“The HKSAR Government deeply regrets that some participants of the public meeting had called on foreign governments to intervene in the affairs of Hong Kong and to impose sanctions. Foreign governments, legislatures or organisations have absolutely no role in matters relating to the constitutional development of Hong Kong and should not express any opinion or take any action in an attempt to influence or interfere in the discussions of related matters in Hong Kong,” the spokesperson said.

Demonstrators are continuing to demand an independent probe into the police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.”

Domestic workers gathered on their day off also fled. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam refused to make any further concessions.

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Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.