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Hong Kong protesters clash in shopping mall scuffles

Published: Updated:

Pro-Beijing protesters waved Chinese flags at a Hong Kong shopping mall on Saturday, some scuffling with anti-Hong Kong government demonstrators at the start of demonstrations across the Chinese-ruled city after months of sometimes violent unrest.

The demonstrators chanted “Support the police” and “China, add oil” at the Kowloon Bay mall, adapting a line used by anti-Hong Kong government protesters and loosely meaning: “China, keep your strength up.”

“Hong Kong is China,” one woman shouted at angry passersby who shouted obscenities in return in an angry pushing and pulling standoff.

Protesters complaining about perceived Chinese meddling in the former British colony came out in their hundreds across the territory on Friday, singing and chanting on the Mid-Autumn Festival, in contrast to the violence of many previous weekends when police have responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.

They have also gathered in malls, with occasional scuffles with flag-carrying China supporters, often denouncing police for perceived brutality.

Anti-government protesters were also gathering in the downtown Central district and in the northwestern New Territories district of Tin Shui Wai.

The spark for the anti-government protests was a now-withdrawn extradition bill and concerns that Beijing is eroding civil liberties, but many young protesters are also angry about sky-high living costs and a lack of job prospects.

The bill would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts, but the protests have now broadened into calls for greater democracy.

Hong Kong returned to China under a “one country, two systems” formula that guarantees freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland - including a much-cherished independent legal system.

China says Hong Kong is now its internal affair. It says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” arrangement and denies meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.

China is eager to quell the unrest before the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1. It has accused foreign powers, particularly the United States and Britain, of fomenting the unrest.