Tear gas engulfs Hong Kong as protesters trash China agency

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Police officers in riot gear stand guard before an anti-government protest in Hong Kong, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. As Hong Kong continues on with its fifth month of anti-government protests, China vowed Friday to prevent foreign powers from interfering in Hong Kong's affairs and carrying out acts of "separatism, subversion, infiltration and sabotage." (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

HONG KONG – Anti-government protesters attacked the Hong Kong office of China's official news agency in a show of anger against Beijing after chaos broke out downtown on Saturday, with police firing tear gas to repel gasoline bombs.

Streets in the upscale Causeway Bay shopping area and nearby Victoria Park were clouded in tear gas, sending thousands of protesters fleeing as riot police moved swiftly to stymie the latest rally in the city's 5-month-long push for genuine autonomy.

Police deployed at least two water cannon trucks in the vicinity. They had issued warnings to protesters who occupied the area that they were taking part in an unauthorized rally and were violating a government ban on face masks.

Some protesters stormed Xinhua News Agency's office in the city's Wan Chai neighborhood, smashing windows and the glass entrance door, splashing red ink, spraying graffiti and setting a small fire in the lobby. Graffiti that was sprayed on the wall next to the entrance read "Deport the Chinese communists."

It was the first strike against the Chinese state-run news agency, a day after the ruling Communist Party in Beijing vowed to tighten the grip on the territory.

Protesters have frequently targeted Chinese banks and businesses linked to or that support China. In July, demonstrators threw eggs at China's liaison office in Hong Kong and defaced the Chinese national emblem in a move slammed by Beijing as a direct challenge to its authority.

Protesters accuse China's central government of infringing on the freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.

Earlier Saturday, some protesters unearthed a goal post from a soccer field and metal railings to block the entrance to Victoria Park.