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Hong Kong police accuse 44 protesters of riots sparking clashes

They mark the first accusations of riots pressed during eight weeks of protests that shook the semi-autonomous Chinese city, and those found guilty went to ten years in prison. The youngest accused is a 16-year-old girl.

Protesters appear in the Eastern Magistrate's Court on Wednesday.

In a statement Tuesday, police blamed pro-democracy protesters for "disturbing peace acts" and assaulting police officers. "They put umbrellas, wooden boards, bamboo sticks and railings; erected sidewalk bricks, demolished roadside fences, damaged street signs and torches, and attacked police officers on the spot with deadly weapons such as bricks and sharpened irons. ] On Sunday, protesters opposed police orders and left a permitted demonstration in Chater Gardens to march through downtown. Many of the protesters were dressed in black, embraced the color of the protest movement and headed to the Chinese Government Liaison Office in the western part of the city.

Police and protesters clashed there in much of the residential area. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who set fire to a cart and pushed it toward officers.

As police were not allowed to march through the city, the protest became illegal the moment protesters left the Chathar gardens. Ventus Lau, 25, one of the organizers of Sunday's protest, called the decision by police to ban the march through Hong Kong "a serious threat to Hong Kong's freedom of expression."

"There are no riots, there is only tyranny," is a popular slogan adopted by protesters in recent weeks.

On Tuesday night, after the city was besieged by a tropical storm, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Kwai Chung police station in the New Territories, where police loaded some of the protesters on Sunday. Police used pepper spray and sticks as protesters threw objects and chanted, "Release the arrested now."

There were also shootings outside the Tin Shui Wai police station near the Yuen Long suburb on the border with China, which became the scene of violent mafia attacks and clashes between police and protesters.

A total of 49 protesters were arrested in connection with Sunday's violence, including 32 men and 17 women between the ages of 16 and 41. A 24-year-old man was charged with possession of assault weapons and two men were released on bail pending further investigation and two were provisionally released.

Police said an active investigation has been launched and further arrests are possible.

Stronger response from protesters

Mass protests shook the world's major financial center for eight consecutive weeks, triggered by a controversial – and already arranged – bill that would allow extradition from a city in mainland China.

Demands of protesters during this period expanded to cover issues such as greater democracy for the city, investigating alleged brutal police, declaring protests as riots, and the resignation of CEO Kari Lam.

Demonstrations also steadily escalated in terms of violence and rhetoric.

Following an attack on protesters by a mafia executing a stick at Yuen Long Subway Station on July 21 that left 45 injured, police arrested six men, some of whom have links to criminal gangs known as triads. These men face less charge of "illegal assembly."
A more serious charge of rioting against protesters on Sunday follows Beijing's public support for police and the Hong Kong government. On Monday, the Chinese government accused protesting protesting Democrats of "evil and criminal acts" that seriously damaged the "reputation" and "stability of the semi-autonomous city."
  Hong Kong rises to the edge as protests take a darker turn

At a press conference in Beijing, Hong Kong and Macau, Yang Guang's spokesman called the situation in Hong Kong "serious," adding that Beijing would not tolerate any challenge to the Chinese government or national security threats.

"No civilization or society under the rule of law would ever allow violence to be perpetrated. We call on the general public of Hong Kong to be aware of the grave nature of the current situation, "Yang said, urging Hong Kong citizens to condemn the violence against the protesters.

" Hong Kong is Hong Kong's Chinese. Hong Kong's affairs are Chinese internal affairs, "he added. Hong Kong has been governed by a" one-state, two-system "model since the city transferred from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

This was the first time that Hong Kong's top policy office briefed mass demonstrations. CNN's Sarah Mazlumsaki contributed from Atlanta.

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