Dusk came and the battle of Hong Kong began.

The two sides had sat opposite each other for hours, about 100 metres of clear road between them.

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The police kept to their lines, the protesters to theirs – they were crouched behind the barricades they had cable tied together, their umbrellas held above them.

A protester fire from a catapult
Image:
A protester firing from a handheld catapult

Central Hong Kong had never seen anything like this. It felt like no one knew quite what they were supposed to do.

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It didn’t feel particularly tense. But this was effectively a siege of the Liaison Office – the physical embodiment of mainland China’s power over Hong Kong. And so it couldn’t be allowed to last.

The police put their masks on and hoisted the flags that warned of tear gas. They started firing, round after round. When the protesters retreated, forced back by the gas clouds, the police ran into seize their barricades.

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They kept going. Charge, charge and charge again. Round after round of tear gas, which reduced me to choking despite my mask. There was just so much of it. Pushing the protesters down the street, establishing a new frontline and settling there before moving again.

The protesters and their defiance, some armed with hockey sticks, some shielded with children’s swimming floats. Then a long lull. The police were pushing other groups of protesters camped onto the wings into the main road, corralling them.

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The riot police started moving but broke apart to let other men, in different black uniform, through their ranks. They ran at full speed, straight through the gas and into the protesters, tackling them to the ground and arresting some.



Many of the demonstrators carried umbrellas







Protesters battle through Hong Kong tear gas

It happened incredibly fast. Some were injured – we saw one young man slumped at a bus stop, blood coming from his head. Ambulances arrived for the wounded.

That charge broke the protesters’ formations, which up until then had been solid even in retreat. It seemed the police had control. But there were hours of skirmishes ahead.

Protesters shouted that anyone who wanted to fight should stay; everyone else should go home.

The last few proved stubborn, even advancing on police who suddenly seemed less assured. Perhaps no one could believe it had gone on this long. It was utter chaos.

When Hong Kong wakes up on Monday it will be a different city. The battle is done. Now the long war for its future.

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