HONG KONG – After a relative pause in the protests, thousands of pro-democracy activists turned up on Sunday for three demonstrations a week after marking a major election victory that was seen as a broad endorsement of the movement's goals.
The vote last Sunday saw pro-democracy candidates win 87% of seats in local district council races. The councils have little political power, but the vote – a rare form of popular election in the semi-autonomous city – was portrayed as reflecting widespread discontent with the government and backing the protesters' goals.
All demonstrations on Sunday received "letters of no objection", unlike many recent protests that were banned by police. Activists denounced such bans as unnecessary restrictions on freedom of assembly. While the first two protests were peaceful, there were later several tense clashes between protesters and the police.
Hong Kong protests began in June over legislation, if discarded, that would allow extraditions to mainland China. The movement soon expanded to include a wide range of demands for police accountability and greater democracy.
On Sunday, thousands of protesters, many dressed in black and wearing masks, descended to the Tsim Sha Tsui port district, chanting slogans like "Five demands, not one less!" And "Hong Kongers, take revenge!"
After the Beijing-backed settlement camp suffered a blow in last Sunday's elections, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam finally said the government was considering setting up a committee to look into the crisis. The move failed to meet protesters' main demand for an independent commission to examine how police handled the protests.
"Never forget why you started," read a large black-and-white banner at the march. Shortly after the start, police fired pepper spray and later blew gas at some of the protesters after warning them that they had deviated from the approved route.
Clashes continued into the night, with police firing rubber bullets and more tear gas as protesters vandalized shops that seemed friendly to Beijing.
There was at least one injury on Sunday when a man who was clearing protesters mounted barriers was hit "in the head by a hard object" wielded by another man, police said in a statement.
Graphic images circulating online showed the man being hit by a long object and colliding with an obstacle in Mong Kok as blood trickled down his face, although he appeared to be conscious after being hit.
The barriers established by pro-democracy protesters to block police movements have become flashpoints among these protesters and government supporters, with fights occurring as people try to dismantle them.
A Hospital Authority spokeswoman did not provide details of individual cases, but said two men who were injured in the area were in stable condition. The city is increasingly nervous after two deaths last month: from a 70-year-old man who died after being hit in the head, possibly by a thrown brick; and a student who died after falling from a building where police clashed with protesters.
But on Sunday many protesters pledged to show a peaceful front to the authorities, and hundreds of parents took their children to march on Sunday morning against what many consider police indiscriminate use of tear gas.
Protesters waved yellow balloons – the color of the pro-democracy movement – while young children placed their handwritten drawings and messages to police outside government headquarters.
"Please don't shoot tear gas anymore, because in addition to making other people sick, tear gas will also make you sick and hurt animals," an elementary school student wrote in his note.