Knifeman stabs four in Hong Kong as mall clashes between protesters and police end in bloodshed

Knifeman stabs four in Hong Kong as mall clashes between protesters and police end in bloodshedAt least four people were injured by a blade-wielding man who rampaged through a mall in Hong Kong as riot police stormed shopping centres in a move to block protesters from staging rallies. The bloody attack took place amid a day of chaos in Hong Kong that also saw an elected local councillor have part of his left ear bitten off. Pro-democracy activists called a spate of flashmobs in shopping centers on Sunday in a bid to keep up the momentum of the protest movement that has swept the city with violent clashes for five months.  The actions came after a day of running battles on Saturday, and riot police stormed several malls early the day in an attempt to stop the rallies from taking place. Officers stationed at planned protest sites blocked certain areas, dispersed crowds and made arrests. Nonetheless, protesters succeeded in worming their way into malls in several neighbourhoods, forming a human chain, chanting slogans, and blocking entrances to prevent police officers from entering. Riot police arrive to a shopping mall to disperse protesters during a rally against police brutality in Hong Kong Credit: JEROME FAVRE/EPA-EFE/REX Although the protests were less violent than the previous day's, they ended in bloodshed when a man charged into a crowd that had gathered at the Cityplaza mall in the middle class neighbourhood of Tai Koo Shing.  Survivors were seen lying in pools of blood and surrounded by people holding down tissues and gauze on their wounds in an effort to staunch the bleeding. Footage circulating online showed that the attacker, thought to be wielding a knife, had been subdued by angry onlookers. He was said to have argued with others over political issues before the incident. Andrew Chiu, a pro-democracy councillor, lost part of his ear at the same mall. It was not immediately clear if the person who bit off his ear was the same person who carried out the knife attack.  Police said in a statement that they stormed into the shopping centres after activists started vandalising interiors and smashing windows. View of a blood-splattered floor after an alleged pro-Chinese supporter attacked a pro-democracy protester Credit: JEROME FAVRE/EPA-EFE/REX They said were still confirming the total number of people injured as of late Sunday evening. Police arrested at least 200 people the previous night when another set of protests disrupted the city. The weekend's clashes were the latest bout of violence in Hong Kong's worst political crisis since the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.  Protests kicked off early June against an extradition bill that would have sent suspects to face trial in mainland China, where Communist Party influence in the court system results in a 99.9 per cent conviction rate. City leaders finally withdrew the plan last month, but activists have continued to demonstrate against what they describe as police brutality and overall frustration at a government they feel has refused to listen to them. The protesters' demands have expanded to include the resignation of Carrie Lam, the city's chief executive, establishment of an independent inquiry into police handling of the demonstrations, amnesty for arrested protesters, and direct leadership elections. A woman is detained by riot police at a shopping mall in Tai Po in Hong Kong,  Credit:  KIM KYUNG-HOON/ REUTERS Ms Lam was on an official visit to mainland China on Sunday, where she is scheduled to meet this week with top Communist Party leaders.   Five months of demonstrations have dramatically disrupted day-to-day life in Hong Kong, with activists growing increasingly radical and police escalating their tactics in response.  City residents have struggled to keep up their daily routines as neighbourhoods are unexpectedly rocked by violent clashes between protesters and police.  The tense political environment has divided many in the international financial hub, with heated debates taking place everywhere from street corners to cafes. And while Ms Lam has refused to make further concessions, the clashes have grown increasingly violent. Police have deployed record amounts of tear gas, rubber bullets and sponge grenades, while a more radical faction of protesters now routinely throw petrol bombs and bricks and set fire to street barricades to deter police. Resentment at Hong Kong’s police force – once dubbed “Asia’s Finest” ­– is hardening as activists denounce what they say is disproportionate force. At least three candidates running in local elections were arrested by police over the weekend, including Richard Chan, 48, who was pepper sprayed at close range twice by officers.  Protesters have also begun targeting symbols of mainland China, including the Chinese flag, major state-owned Chinese banks, and businesses thought to be pro-Beijing, to show their frustration that freedoms long enjoyed in the former British colony were fast eroding under Beijing’s Communist rule.  On Saturday, protesters targeted the offices of Chinese state media agency Xinhua for the first time. Xinhua said in a statement that it strongly condemned the “barbaric acts of mobs” who vandalised and set fire to its lobby.

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