Hong Kong police fire tear gas, water cannon as protesters swamp streets

Hong Kong police fired tear gas and a water cannon as thousands took to the streets Sunday — as controversial new security laws from China aimed at crushing the protests sparked the most intense clashes in months. Crowds of pro-democracy demonstrators dressed in black gathered in a popular shopping district, chanting slogans such as “Stand …

Hong Kong police fired tear gas and a water cannon as thousands took to the streets Sunday — as controversial new security laws from China aimed at crushing the protests sparked the most intense clashes in months.

Crowds of pro-democracy demonstrators dressed in black gathered in a popular shopping district, chanting slogans such as “Stand with Hong Kong,” “Liberate Hong Kong” and “Revolution of our times.”

The protest did not receive official authorization — and broke local coronavirus social-distancing restrictions, which ban groups of more than eight people meeting.

Police raised blue flags, warning protesters to disperse, before firing multiple rounds of tear gas — then firing from a water cannon.

Protesters threw bricks and splashed unidentified liquid at officers, injuring at least four members of the police media liaison team, police said in a Facebook post.

At least 120 people were arrested, mostly on charges of unlawful assembly.

Prominent activist Tam Tak-chi was one of those arrested — having tried to argue that he was exempt from social-distancing measures because he was giving a “health talk.”

The protests that plagued Hong Kong much of last year had already returned after a respite from the coronavirus lockdown — only to intensify after China’s moves to impose tough new national security legislation on the semi-autonomous city.

The planned legislation would crackdown on dissent and anti-government protests, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi insisted Sunday that the law must be imposed “without the slightest delay.”

The pro-democracy camp says the proposal goes against the “one country, two systems” framework that promises Hong Kong freedoms not found in mainland China.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the proposal “a death knell for the high degree of autonomy” that Beijing promised the former British colony when it was returned to China in 1997.

Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong prior to its handover to China, lamented what he called “a new Chinese dictatorship.”

“I think the Hong Kong people have been betrayed by China, which has proved once again that you can’t trust it further than you can throw it,” Patten said in an interview with The Times of London.

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