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HONG KONG — Police fired tear gas at pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong on Sunday amid growing anger over escalating violence against demonstrators.
Anti-riot forces marched toward crowds gathered near the Chinese government's representative office, known as the Central Government Liaison Office, firing rounds of gas. Multiple protesters were forced to the ground by security forces after clashes erupted and protesters threw bricks at police.
"Police no longer fear using excessive force," protester Jason Lo, 34, told NBC News. "This is unacceptable. As long as I can come out, I will continue."
Organizers called Sunday's rally to protest the police use of tear gas and rubber bullets to break up a demonstration one week ago.
The movement that began seven weeks ago in response to a controversial extradition bill has become increasingly violent.At least two dozen people were injured and 11 arrested on Saturday in an outlying district near the border with mainland China where protesters assembled despite a police ban.
Eight people injured in Saturday's clashes remained hospitalized the following morning. Two people were reported to be in serious condition.
The severity of the previous day's events didn't stop Lo and countless others from gathering on Sunday at Chater Garden, an urban park in the financial district. As with on Saturday, police had denied a request for protesters to march about 1.4 miles west to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park. But many protesters once again defied the ban, simply marching in the opposite direction.
Protesters built barricades across major roadways in the city of 7 million, targeting areas popular among tourists. Many carried placards that said, "Stop the violence" while others chanted "shame on you" at police.
"If we did not come out these two days, we are basically submitting to the abuse of power by police force," Lo said, adding that the demonstrations were an act of protecting freedom of expression.
Police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators in previous rounds of protest. Demonstrators believe the use of force has been excessive and are calling for an investigation.
The human rights group Amnesty International has also called the police response heavy-handed and unacceptable.
Police have said they had to use "appropriate force" because of the bricks and other objects thrown at them, including glass bottles with a suspected corrosive fluid inside. They also claim protesters charged at officers with metal poles and have vandalized police vehicles.
While protesters maintain their initial demand for a complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill, the movement has morphed to also include calls for the resignation of the city's chief executive Carrie Lam and a broader push for democracy in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The former British colony became a special administrative region of China in 1997. Unlike those living in mainland China, the territory's seven million residents can freely surf the internet and participate in public protests.
But there is widespread fear that their rights are being eroded under Beijing's rule, prompting as many as 2 million people to march the streets of Hong Kong.
Matt Bradley and Veta Chan reported from Hong Kong, and Linda Givetash reported from London.