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Hong Kong police fire tear gas at anti-triad protesters

Police fire tear gas at protesters in Yuen Long, near Hong Kong, 27 July 2019.
Police fire tear gas at protesters in Yuen Long, near Hong Kong, 27 July 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Hong Kong police fired tear gas Saturday at protesters holding a banned rally against suspected gang members who beat up pro-democracy demonstrators near the Chinese border last weekend.

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Thousands had gathered in Yuen Long, to condemn last Sunday's attack on pro-democracy protesters by around a hundred armed masked men.

Forty-five people were injured in the attack, which was widely blamed on triad gang members.

Police have been heavily criticised for being too slow to respond, fueling accusations of collusion or turning a blind eye to the pro-government mob, allegations the force has denied.

Police say they have arrested 12 people so far in connection with Sunday's attack, nine of whom have known triad links.

Saturday's march had been banned by the police because they feared violent clashes between protesters and residents.

Yuen Long is in Hong Kong's New Territories, a rural area where many of the surrounding villages are known for triad connections and their support for the pro-Beijing establishment.

Although Saturday's march began peacefully, there were some tense standoffs with some protesters reportedly throwing projectiles and surrounding a police van.

Protesters in helmets

Police said some protesters were holding iron poles and shields, and "even removing fences from roads".

Throughout the afternoon and into the evening protesters formed shield walls of umbrellas. Some hurled bricks and stones at police.

On one road, a parked Lexus that was found to have wooden sticks and clubs similar to those used in Sunday's attacks inside it, as well as a Samurai-style sword, had been trashed.

Around 5pm local time, police began firing several rounds of tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

Hong Kong has been plunged into its worst crisis in recent history after millions of demonstrators took to the streets in anger over a controversial bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.

The protests have since evolved into a call for wider democratic reforms and a halt to sliding freedoms.

On Friday thousands held a 10-hour protest at the airport arrival hall in a bid to "educate" visitors about their movement, especially those on the Chinese mainland where news is heavily censored.

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