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Hong Kong protests descend into violence ahead of Communist China anniversary

Our Foreign Staff
Riot police on the move in Sha Tin in Hong Kong, China - REX

Pro-democracy protesters clashed with riot police outside a mall on Sunday, with some activists vandalising a nearby subway station and defacing a Chinese flag, but plans to disrupt the airport did not materialise.

Police fired brief volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets in the northern town of Sha Tin late Sunday afternoon, capping a day which saw thousands rally peacefully inside a mall before the mood soured.

Authorities reduced rail and bus links to the city's airport while police stepped up security checks in a successful bid to stop a crowd from massing at the bustling transport hub.

The airport - the world's eighth busiest - has become a frequent target for demonstrators pushing for greater democratic rights and police accountability.

Pro-democracy protesters vandalise items during a protest at the New Town Plaza shopping mall in Hong Kong's Sha Tin district Credit: Isaac Lawrence

Online forums used by the largely leaderless movement had called for a "stress test" of the airport on Sunday, code for disrupting travel links or occupying buildings.

Instead thousands gathered inside a mall in the northern town of Sha Tin to sing protest songs and make origami cranes, the latest rally in what has now been 16 consecutive weekends of protests and clashes.

Many shops inside the complex shuttered but the unsanctioned rally remained civil for much of the afternoon.

"Even if we are very tired, we can't give up on our rights," a teacher at the rally, who have her surname as Ching, told AFP.

"If it (the movement) stretches to 100 days, 200 days or even 1,000 days and we still don't get what we want, we will continue to come out."