Clashes erupt as protesters "celebrate" Hong Kong leader's b'day

Hong Kong: Sporadic clashes broke out as anti-government protesters gathered in at least 10 shopping centres across Hong Kong, heeding online calls to "celebrate" the city's Chief Executive Carrie Lams birthday.

The demonstrations on Wednesday evening were in defiance of the coronavirus-related ban on public gatherings of more than eight people, and saw riot police enter some malls, using pepper spray in one to disperse protesters and journalists, reports the South China Morning Post newspaper .

The rallies started at 7.30 p.m., with protesters chanting and waving banners that read "Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times" and "five demands, not one less" Â- two popular slogans of the anti-government movement.

Some also carried Hong Kong independence flags, while others shouted profanities targeting Lam on her 63rd birthday.

Messages were broadcast in the malls reminding protesters they could be violating the ban if they continued to gather, as police stood outside.

Wednesday's demonstrations came a day after Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung admitted that his officers' treatment of journalists covering protests on Mother's Day was "unsatisfactory", and vowed to meet media representatives next week to discuss ways to ease tensions between the press and the force.

Police arrested more than 230 people on Sunday night following protests across the city.

Since April 26, when hundreds gathered in Cityplaza to chant slogans, Hong Kong has seen a revival of protests, which had died down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the SCMP report.

Protests first broke out in June last year, sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill.

The demonstrations later evolved into a wider anti-government movement, with clashes between radical protesters and police turning increasingly violent.

With the onset of the coronavirus crisis, the campaign began losing momentum.

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