Fresh clashes as Hong Kong charges dozens of protesters with rioting
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Dozens of people in Hong Kong have appeared in court, charged with rioting after protests on Sunday turned violent. The announcement of the charges against the 44 late Tuesday immediately sparked fresh clashes between pro-democracy demonstrators and police.
The protesters were charged for their alleged role in Sunday's running battles between demonstrators and police, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas.
It's the first time Hong Kong authorities have used the rioting charge.
Supporters of those arrested, including students and a range of professionals, stood for hours outside the court on Wednesday, calling for their release. Police confronted the demonstrators, using pepper spray and batons.
The 44 charged were calm as they took turns to appear in front of the judge, who formally read the accusations against them and granted them bail. They are due back in court on 25 September.
Hong Kong law defines rioting as an illegal assembly of three or more people in which any one of them "commits a breach of the peace". It carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
Sunday’s protest was the latest in a wave of demonstrations that began in late April. They were triggered by a bill that would have allowed authorities to extradite people to mainland China for trial, but they evolved into movement for democratic reforms, and the most significant challenge to Chinese rule of the city since its handover from Britain in 1997.
Protests have escalated since mid-June, and some, like Sunday’s, have degenerated into violent clashes between demonstrators and police.
At a demonstration outside Tin Shui Wai police station early Wednesday, police said the occupants of a passing car fired fireworks into the crowd, injuring six people. There were no immediate arrests, but police issued a statement that "strongly condemned" the attack.