Hong Kong protests: Riot police fire tear gas at protesters for second consecutive day

anna coren tear gas 1
CNN reporter and crew hit by tear gas in Hong Kong
02:47 - Source: CNN

What we're covering here

  • Riot police and protesters clash: Police and protesters are facing off in the Hong Kong district of Sheung Wan. Police have been firing tear gas for hours now to clear the crowds – but the hundreds of protesters left are still pushing back.
  • Summer of discontent: People have been protesting for three days in a row – and beyond that, for the past eight weekends. Mass demonstrations, clashes with police, and escalating violence have become the norm.
  • Growing demands: The protests began against a now-suspended extradition bill, but have since broadened to include calls for democracy and police accountability.
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Our live coverage of the protests on Hong Kong Island has concluded, but you can read more about the ongoing crisis here.

Most protesters are heading home before the last train

Most protesters appear to be leaving and heading into the Sheung Wan subway station, in time to catch the last train home.

Over the past two chaotic months, protests have typically ended by 12:30 a.m., before the final trains leave – young protesters don’t want to get separated, or risk being stranded and picked up by police.

Some protesters have been ducking into the MTR station intermittently all night for cover from the tear gas before heading back out for another push.

But this time it seemed for real.

In the end, the police’s tactics had paid off: protesters had been corralled into one area, surrounded on all sides, with only the subway station as an exit. Most protesters now appear to be on the MTR home.

Street battles and tear gas have become the new normal

It was a tense night in Hong Kong on Sunday as the city’s streets once again became a battle ground between police and protesters.

Tear gas is everywhere: Once a last resort, tonight tear gas is being deployed constantly — every time police lines push forward, or when protesters get too close, or sometimes seemingly for little reason.

The streets around the Sheung Wan district, where police and protesters are still facing off, are fogged by the toxic, burning gas. It’s also seeping into people’s homes through windows and air conditioning units in this highly residential area.

Protesters push back: The hundreds of remaining protesters are still determined and seem buoyed by the police response. It’s been a back-and-forth tonight, with skirmishes breaking out every 20 minutes or so. Chants, the beating of sticks and shouts fill the air. 

Civilians caught in the mix: Meanwhile, passersby are trying to get home, but find themselves blocked by the protesters and police. One man told CNN reporters on the ground that he was trying to get his family home, and asked for directions to a safe space.

No end in sight: The atmosphere is tense and there’s a sense that protesters are not following a plan — they will stay out and continue this fight, which they call their last chance.

Here's what the police's rubber bullets look like

Riot police aren’t just firing tear gas in Sheung Wan as they try to disperse crowds – they’re also firing rubber bullets.

The bullets may be nonlethal, but their size and weight can make quite a painful hit. Images on social media from the past few protests have shown protesters and journalists sporting purple, palm-sized bruises on their chests and arms after being hit by these bullets.

The extradition bill has been suspended -- so why are people still protesting?

The protests began about two months ago over a controversial bill that would allow extradition from Hong Kong to China. But the bill has been suspended and called “dead” by the government – so why are people still protesting?

Their list of demands has grown as the violence has escalated. Here are some of them:

  • The full withdrawal – not just suspension – of the bill
  • The resignation of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam
  • A third-party independent investigation into perceived police brutality
  • The government retraction of the term “riots,” which were used to describe the protests
  • The dismissal of all charges against arrested protesters
  • Universal suffrage (Hong Kong does not have full democracy)

Here's your 11 p.m. catch up

It’s now the eighth weekend of protests in Hong Kong – and it looks like it may be a long night as police and protesters push back and forth.

Here’s what’s happened since our last catch up:

  • Sheung Wan in lockdown: Riot police have been firing tear gas for the past 3 hours to clear protesters, but a hardcore group of protesters remain on the streets. It’s been a slow tit-for-tat, with protesters unwilling to give much ground as the police try to press them east.
  • Protester tactics: The protesters are used to tear gas by now – footage on social media shows them quickly putting out the gas bombs once they’re fired, before the gas has a chance to spread.

Earlier today thousands gathered in Chater Garden, Central, for a police-approved protest. But around mid-afternoon some protesters defied a police ban on marching through the city, and fanned out to Causeway Bay and the West of the city, to protest outside the Liaison Office, Beijing’s main base in Hong Kong.

4 people have been hospitalized

Four people have been hospitalized due to today’s protests, according to the Hong Kong Hospital Authority.

They are all stable and being treated at Queen Mary Hospital.

It’s been a violent and chaotic weekend – yesterday’s protest in Yuen Long district also saw police and protesters clashing, leaving 23 people hospitalized. As of this morning, most had been discharged except for six.

Police are firing tear gas made in the US

The streets are littered with tear gas canisters and casings, with some bearing the label of a manufacturer from the United States.

One casing is labelled “NonLethal Technologies,” a company based in Pennsylvania that creates crowd control products.

On June 25, the UK announced it would stop issuing licenses for crowd control equipment to Hong Kong until “concerns raised on human rights” had been addressed.

Earlier this week, Amnesty International published a statement calling on other countries to halt sending these types of products to Hong Kong. According to the Amnesty statement, Hong Kong law enforcement are using products from:

  • The US: Pepper spray, batons, rubber bullets, and pump-action shotguns
  • The UK: Rubber-spraying grenades
  • France and Germany: Mercedes Benz chassis, customized into a water cannon riot control vehicle.

Protesters pushed toward Central with police tear gas

Protesters are increasingly being pushed toward the Central district as police press further east.

The past hour has seen a tit-for-tat struggle between the two sides – but as police fire tear gas intermittently, the crowds have had to retreat. They had begun in Sai Ying Pun, by the Chinese government’s Liaison Office. Now, they are beside the Wing On department store, increasingly headed for the very heart of the city.

Here's how many people have attended each protest before this weekend

This is Hong Kong’s eighth straight weekend of protests.

While numbers have not again reached the same heights seen during those first initial weeks, tens of thousands of people are still regularly hitting the streets – no small deal in a city with just over 7 million people.

Organizers at yesterday’s protest in Yuen Long say there were 288,000 protesters. However, there was no estimate for that march from the Hong Kong police, and there will be no estimate for tonight’s march either. This weekend’s protests have not been granted approval by the police, so they are marked as officially illegal with no attendance counts.

Why the protesters feel they're running out of time

Tonight’s clashes between protesters and police feel well-practiced – after all, the marches have been happening for eight weeks now. And the protesters are getting desperate – many young people feel they’re running out of time in their fight for democracy.

Looming over it all is a 2047 deadline – when Hong Kong will be fully reintegrated with mainland China, as agreed upon when the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997.

The protests began over a bill: But the now-suspended extradition bill is no longer the sole reason for the protests.

Protesters have a host of demands, including calls for greater democracy and more government accountability, that many feel they are out of time to achieve.

Even as democratic values have increasingly come under threat around the world, and many voters in democracies are increasingly expressing apathy or despair, young Hong Kongers are determined to continue a fight for freedom, which began decades ago under British rule, before time runs out and Hong Kong becomes just another Chinese city.

Read more about it here.

Sheung Wan protesters duck into McDonald's

Police are advancing toward protesters on Des Voeux Road as they push the crowds east from Sheung Wan into Central.

The tear gas is so strong that you can smell it hundreds of meters away on Hollywood Road.

Nearby on Queen’s Road East, some protesters were seen ducking inside a McDonald’s – perhaps to order more food before heading back out.

It's tit for tat as protesters and police clash

Protesters and police are facing off in Sheung Wan in a back-and-forth struggle.

There is a police line on Cleverly Street, with riot police bearing a black flag to warn of tear gas.

Then just around the corner, protesters form a line on Des Voeux Road, making a wall of open umbrellas to shield against the gas.

It’s very much tit for tat – protests surge forward, only to be pushed back, where they regroup again.

Families get hit with tear gas on their way home

In Sheung Wan, many people are now stranded and trying to get home after the subway suspended services going West at this stop on the Island Line.

Tear gas is all over the streets. Parents and children are washing their eyes out as the gas fogs the air. Police are now spraying a large amount on the intersection of Connaught Road and Cleverly Street, trying to push the protesters back once again.

Meanwhile, protesters are carrying bamboo construction poles and barricade materials – as well as eggs to throw – to the front lines.

Here's your 9 p.m. catch up

It is now nighttime in Hong Kong, but chaos is continuing as protesters and riot police are locked in a tense face-off.

Here is what’s happened since our last catch up:

  • Someone set a cart on fire: Police claim that protesters set a cart, piled with newspapers and cardboard, aflame – then pushed it at the police line. The cart has now been extinguished.
  • The police press eastward: The riot police are pushing the protesters east, from Sheung Wan toward Central. Protesters are now calling for people on the side streets to gather on the main street, and are making barricades.
  • Tear gas in the air: The police continue to fire tear gas as they advance. Reporters on the ground say this is the strongest tear gas they’ve experienced in the past two months of coverage.

Police and protesters face off with tear gas and cooking oil

Police in Sheung Wan have fired multiple rounds of tear gas at protesters, pushing them back a few hundred yards from the Western Market, near the ferry terminal to Macau.

But protesters don’t seem put off. They simply adjust their masks and goggles, then reform a frontline, waiting until someone make the next move.

And they’ve also got some tactics of their own. Protesters have been pouring what looks like cooking oil onto the streets, making them slippery and difficult to walk on.

Firefighters extinguish the flaming cart

Firefighters in Sheung Wan have just extinguished the flaming cart that police say protesters set ablaze and pushed at the police line.

The cart, piled with burning newspapers and cardboard, had sat between the two sides for about 15 minutes before being put out.

“The police officers are conducting a dispersal operation eastward on Hong Kong Island as some protestors were committing arson at various locations,” a police statement said.

The statement also condemned protester violence and urged the public to stay calm.

Tear gas canisters litter the streets

As riot police move east to disperse crowds across Hong Kong Island, they are leaving tear gas canisters and casings in their wake.

The small casings and plastic holders are littered across Connaught Road West.

Flaming cart blazes between police and protesters

In Sheung Wan, outside the Western Market, a flaming cart is sitting between the protesters and the police. It appears to be piled high with bound newspapers or cardboard, which have been set on fire.

The police put out a statement claiming the protesters had pushed the cart towards the police line “creating serious safety threats to everyone at the scene.”

“The police note the escalating violence that the protestors are using and express condemnation against them. The police appeal to everyone at the scene to stay calm. The police hereby reiterate that the protestors participating in the unauthorised assembly are committing an offence under the Hong Kong Laws. The police appeal to the protestors to stop charging police cordon lines, assaulting police officers and all other illegal acts,” the statement said.

Tear gas fired in Sheung Wan's Western Market

Protesters in Sheung Wan have been pushed to the Western Market as riot police move eastward.

Lines of police, dressed in riot gear and holding full-body plastic shields, are blocking access to the streets leading to the market.

Some residents and tourists have been caught in the mix – one tourist told CNN he was trying to find his hotel, but had gotten tear gassed by the police and didn’t know the way back.

Subway and ferry services are temporarily suspended

As of 8 p.m., the subway’s Island Line is only operating from Chai Wan to Sheung Wan, due to a police request.

Train service for Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong University and Kennedy Town are temporarily suspended.

Protesters and riot police continue to face off in Sai Ying Pun, as the police move eastward to disperse crowds.

Meanwhile, ferry and helicopter services using the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan have also stopped.

Here's your 8 p.m. catch up

If you’re just joining us now, here’s what you need to know about the protests happening today on Hong Kong Island:

  • Tear gas fired: Riot police and protesters are clashing in Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun, close to the Chinese government’s central offices. CNN reporters on the ground say the tear gas fired is the strongest they’ve felt at the protests so far.
  • Splintered protests: Thousands of protesters earlier in the day split from a police-approved demonstration in Chater Garden, Central. They are now fanned out across Causeway Bay, Central, Sai Ying Pun: the busiest areas of Hong Kong Island.
  • Unauthorized assembly: Protesters defied a police ban by taking their marches onto the streets of Hong Kong today – which is why officers are now forcibly trying to disperse the crowds.
  • Escalating violence: This is the eighth consecutive weekend of demonstrations in Hong Kong, with escalating tensions and violence. Just yesterday, protesters and police clashed in Yuen Long, leaving 24 people hospitalized. That march was also considered an illegal assembly.

Residents in Sai Ying Pun are watching the chaos from their windows

Protesters have been pushed back from the Chinese government’s Liaison Office to the residential streets behind the building.

As protesters and police are clashing on Des Voeux Road, in the Sai Ying Pun neighborhood, residents can be seen watching the chaos from their windows, while others – some who can’t get home because of the chaos – are looking on from shops or nearby parks.

Riot police and protesters advance toward each other in Sai Ying Pun

Protesters in Sai Ying Pun are facing off with riot police, wielding inverted umbrellas like shields and chanting protest slogans.

The protesters are slowly move towards the police line, which is only about 100 yards away. The police are fully armed in riot gear and are now firing tear gas.

Here's why people protested outside the Chinese Liaison Office

Police officers stand guard next to China's liaison office emblem being protected by plexiglass during a demonstration in Hong Kong on July 28, 2019.

Protesters and police are clashing outside the Hong Kong China Liaison Office in Sai Ying Pun – a symbolic site.

The Chinese government’s Liaison Office is Beijing’s top representative in the city – and protesters have seen it as a way to directly challenge the Chinese Communist Party.

Last week, a small group of protesters threw eggs at the building, and vandalized a government seal on the front of the building. Today, that emblem has been covered with protective plexiglass.

After the vandalization of the emblem, a spokesman for the State Council, China’s ruling body, said the actions “openly challenge the authority of the Central Government, touch the bottom line” of the “one country, two systems” model that has operated in Hong Kong since the city transferred from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Protesters: "We want the world to know what's happening"

Today’s protests are happening in two places: outside the Chinese government’s Liaison Office in the West, and shopping hotspot Causeway Bay in the east.

A group of young protesters told CNN they decided to protest in two places to divide police resources, and picked Causeway Bay because it’s a popular tourist area.

“We want the world to know what’s happening in Hong Kong and we want our demands. We want the world to see how violent police are,” they said.

“In the beginning we all wanted to withdraw the bill, but now it comes to this,” they added.

The protests today were not authorized by the police, making them illegal assemblies.

One protester added that there are no “legal protests” in the city now because even if they got permission, police would still fire rubber bullets.

Police: "The situation is drastically deteriorating"

Riot police are about to disperse the crowds with tear gas, the police just announced on Twitter.

“As some protestors were throwing bricks at the Police officers and the situation is drastically deteriorating, the Police is now conducting a dispersal operation eastward with tear gas used. The Police appeal to the protestors to leave the area at once and not charge police cordon lines. Members of the public should avoid traveling to the area,” the statement said.

The police are now charging towards protesters on Des Voeux Road, firing multiple tear gas rounds.

In response, protesters are throwing thrones and poles and other projectiles.

Police fire tear gas at crowds