Scuffles in Hong Kong as polarisation deepens

Hong Kong, September 14 

Fights erupted in Hong Kong on Saturday with political rivals trading blows in a mall and Beijing supporters using Chinese flags to assault opponents on a street, deepening the city's polarisation after months of pro-democracy protests.

The once-stable international hub has been convulsed by weeks of huge, sometimes violent, rallies calling for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability. The movement is the biggest challenge to China's rule since the city was handed back by Britain in 1997 and shows no sign of ending, with city leaders and Beijing taking a hard line.

Fights have begun breaking out with increased frequency after pro-democracy supporters began holding impromptu sing-along's of a popular protest anthem — and as pro-Beijing supporters have held rival gatherings to sing China's national anthem.

In the district of Fortress Hill, a group of men, many waving Chinese flags and wearing blue T-shirts declaring “I love HK police”, attacked people perceived to be pro-democracy protesters. Hong Kong police did not comment on it. Democracy protesters have accused the police of taking sides, clamping down harder on their camp than violent government supporters — accusations the force has denied.

Hong Kong has been battered by nearly 100 days of protests, sparked by a now-abandoned plan to allow extraditions to the mainland. But with few concessions won so far, the movement has snowballed into wider calls for democracy and a halt to sliding freedoms under Beijing’s rule. —  AFP