Police fired tear gas to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong on Sunday, after a rare lull in violence, as residents took to the streets chanting “revolution of our time” and “liberate Hong Kong”.
The protest in the bustling shopping district of Tsim Tsa Tsui came after hundreds of people had marched to the U.S. consulate to show “gratitude” for U.S. support for the demonstrations that have roiled the China-ruled financial hub for six months.
Shops and businesses in the area shuttered early as police sprayed volleys of tear gas at protesters, including some elderly residents and others with their pets, as they marched past the city’s Kowloon waterfront, home to luxury hotels and shopping malls.
Police made several arrests as the tear gas sent hundreds fleeing towards the harbour.
Hong Kong had enjoyed relative calm for the past week since local elections last Sunday delivered an overwhelming victory to pro-democracy candidates.
Activists pledged, however, to maintain the momentum of the anti-government movement that has seen protests roil the former British colony since June, at times forcing government offices, businesses, schools and even the international airport to shut.
Waving posters that read “Never forget why you started” and black flags with the logo “Revolution now”, protesters occupied several main roads on Sunday, with young residents and families with children filling the nearby streets.
“We had demonstrations, peaceful protests, lobbying inside the council, a lot of things we have done but they all failed,” said Felix, a 25 year old university graduate.
“There are still five demands,” he said, referring to protesters’ calls that include an independent inquiry into police behaviour and the implementation of universal suffrage.
Some protesters, equipped with gas masks, built barricades and blocked roads near luxury stores, including Armani, while others headed towards Hung Hom, a district near the ruined campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
The campus turned into a battleground in mid-November when protesters barricaded themselves in and faced off riot police in violent clashes of petrol bombs, water cannon and tear gas.
About 1,100 people were arrested last week, some while trying to escape.
On Friday, police withdrew from the university after collecting evidence and removing dangerous items including thousands of petrol bombs, arrows and chemicals that had been strewn around the site.