Violence and chaos spreads through Hong Kong as protests enter 16th week

Pro-democracy protesters desecrate the Chinese national flag during a protest at the New Town Plaza shopping mall in Hong Kong's Sha Tin district on September 22, 2019.

Hong Kong (CNN)There were more scenes of violence and destruction across Hong Kong over the weekend as protesters targeted subway stations and shopping malls in an apparent escalation as the city enters its sixteenth consecutive week of unrest.

Police and protesters clashed in multiple districts, with the latter throwing petrol bombs and setting fires as the authorities responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Protesters largely avoided pitched battles with the authorities, however, retreating and moving around the city quickly.
Inside New Town Plaza, a shopping mall in the northern Hong Kong town on Sha Tin, protesters targeted Chinese-owned businesses and those owned by the food and beverage conglomerate Maxim's, including Starbucks and Simply Life. Earlier this month, Annie Wu Suk-ching, daughter of Maxim's founder James Tak Wu, infuriated protesters when she publicly criticized them and defended police handling of the unrest.
    A protester uses a fire hose during a demonstration inside a shopping mall in Shatin district on September 22, 2019 in Hong Kong.
    While the mall protests were initially light-hearted, including a conga line, they soon became more serious, with stores graffitied and regular business disrupted, forcing many to close. Trash cans in the mall were overturned, water sprayed over the floor from a hose, and television screens smashed, according to the South China Morning Post. A connecting subway station was also heavily vandalized, forcing it to be closed. Outside New Town Plaza, protesters set fire to barricades and threw a Chinese flag into a nearby river.
    There were similar scenes of chaos in malls in three other districts, and multiple other subway stations closed after being targeted by protesters.
    In a sign of how the protests are growing more violent and out of control, there were also several attacks on apparent bystanders during demonstrations Sunday, and protesters were recorded beating a riot officer with his own weapon and attempting to grab his sidearm.
    One of the ugliest scenes came in Yuen Long, where protesters staged a sit in to mark two months since an attack at a subway station in the northern town by alleged triad groups. Two men who had shouted at protesters and appeared to threaten them with a bottle were beaten by a crowd, hit with bamboo sticks, poles and a metal chair, leaving them bloodied and dazed.