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HONG KONG - Hong Kong police fired volleys of tear gas to disperse pro-democracy protests on Sunday and baton-charged the crowd blocking a key road in the government district after official warnings against illegal demonstrations. The city's Admiralty district had descended into chaos as chanting protesters converged on police barricades surrounding colleagues who had earlier launched a "new era" of civil disobedience to pressure Beijing into granting full democracy to Hong Kong. Police, in lines five deep in places and wearing helmets and gas masks, staged repeated pepper spray attacks and shot tear gas into the air. The crowds fled several hundred yards, hurling abuse at police "cowards."
Crowds returned however and by early evening tens of thousands of protesters were thronging streets, including outside the prominent Pacific Place shopping mall. Police had not used tear gas in Hong Kong since breaking up World Trade Organization protests against South Korean farmers in 2005. "We will fight until the end...we will never give up," said Peter Poon, a protester in his 20s, adding that they may have to make a temporary retreat as night falls. A spokesperson for China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office added that the central government fully supported Hong Kong's handling of the situation "in accordance with the law."