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Hong Kong protesters met with tear gas after attacking Chinese news agency offices

MusicMan 11 November 2, 2019

Police fired tear gas at demonstrators in Hong Kong on Saturday following an attack on China's official Xinhua news agency and local metro stations, as the anti-government movement nears the five-month mark.

Doors and windows were smashed, graffiti was sprayed on the walls and a fire was set in the lobby of the Hong Kong Xinhua office in the Wan Chai district, as protesters continue to target Chinese businesses that have ties to Beijing, according to the Guardian.

Earlier in the day, police fired tear gas at protesters who had hurled gas bombs at them - as fighting in the city approaches the 22-week mark.

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Firefighters stand outside the offices of China's Xinhua News Agency after its windows were shattered during protests in Hong Kong, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. 

Firefighters stand outside the offices of China's Xinhua News Agency after its windows were shattered during protests in Hong Kong, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.  (AP)

Fires were set to the entrances of local metro stations and two telephone booths were taken out of the ground and added to their flaming barricades.

Protesters later moved to an upscale shopping area and were seen chanting pro-democracy slogans, as riot police countered with searches after declaring the rally illegal. The government added that some of the protesters at the rally were violating the government ban on masks.

Teargas was fired at a large crowd at Victoria Park after protesters dug up a goalpost and metal railings from the grounds of the soccer field to block the entrance.

Police in riot gear gather near campaign banners in Hong Kong, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. Anti-government protesters attacked the Hong Kong office of China's official Xinhua News Agency for the first time Saturday after chaos broke out downtown, with police and demonstrators trading gasoline bombs and tear gas as the protest movement approached the five-month mark.

Police in riot gear gather near campaign banners in Hong Kong, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. Anti-government protesters attacked the Hong Kong office of China's official Xinhua News Agency for the first time Saturday after chaos broke out downtown, with police and demonstrators trading gasoline bombs and tear gas as the protest movement approached the five-month mark. (AP)

Police said in a statement that some masked rioters had damaged shops, committed arson and placed nails on roads. They also said they halted two approved pro-democracy rallies due to the mayhem.

In one of those rallies, thousands gathered at a public square overlooking the city's harbor to press for the passage of a U.S. bill that could place diplomatic action and economic sanctions on Hong Kong over human rights violations. U.S. lawmakers have passed the bill, which still needs Senate backing.

The chaos Saturday underlined the depth of anger in protests that began in early June over a now-shelved plan to allow extraditions to mainland China but have since swelled into a movement seeking other demands, including direct elections for the city's leaders.

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The increasingly violent unrest has hurt the reputation of one of the world's top financial hubs. The city has slipped into recession for the first time in a decade as it grapples with the turmoil and the impact from the U.S.-China trade war.

Demonstrators gather near a burning barricade in the street during a protest in Hong Kong, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. Anti-government protesters attacked the Hong Kong office of China's official Xinhua News Agency for the first time Saturday after chaos broke out downtown, with police and demonstrators trading gasoline bombs and tear gas as the protest movement approached the five-month mark. 

Demonstrators gather near a burning barricade in the street during a protest in Hong Kong, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. Anti-government protesters attacked the Hong Kong office of China's official Xinhua News Agency for the first time Saturday after chaos broke out downtown, with police and demonstrators trading gasoline bombs and tear gas as the protest movement approached the five-month mark.  (AP)

The civil disobedience has posed a big challenge for Beijing, which vowed Friday to prevent foreign powers from sowing acts of "separatism, subversion, infiltration and sabotage" in Hong Kong.

In a Communist Party document released after its Central Committee meeting this past week, Beijing said it would "establish and strengthen a legal system and enforcement mechanism" to safeguard national security in Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong, which has a separate legal system from mainland China, has tried to enact anti-subversion legislation before, only to have the measure shelved amid formidable public opposition. Beijing may be indicating it is preparing to take matters into its own hands by having the National People's Congress issue a legal interpretation forcing the enactment of such legislation.

The Associated Press contributed to the report