Comments by embattled leader come as protesters plan to take to the streets throughout the weekend.
Hong Kong police fired tear gas and beat demonstrators in another night of violent confrontation with protesters as protests continued on the 10th weekend in a row.
Reuters news agency on Sunday said its reporters in Wan Chai saw two petrol bombs thrown, setting small fires on the streets, while tear gas volleys and advancing riot police sent some protesters fleeing.
Tear gas was also fired inside the Kwai Fong metro station, forcing a crowd of protesters to flee.
Videos posted on social media showed police making several arrests and repeatedly beating protesters with batons. One protester was shown with a bloodied face pinned down on the pavement by officers in anti-riot gear.
There have also been allegations of police officers disguised as protesters trying to start fights.
Demonstrators are demanding the resignation of the city’s leader Carrie Lam, democratic elections, the release of those arrested in earlier protests, and an investigation into police use of force against the protesters.
Banners at the rally in Victoria Park read “Give Hong Kong back to us” and “Withdraw the evil law”, the latter a reference to an extradition bill that was the original spark for the protests.
The demonstrations have since morphed into a broader bid to reverse a slide in democratic freedoms in the city.
Protesters took over streets in two parts of the Asian financial hub, blocking traffic and setting up another night of showdowns with riot police as they chanted: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time.”
Given the latest development tonight, will it finally prompt the @UNHumanRights Council to weigh in?
Source: Apple Daily pic.twitter.com/knsMkcMqdk
— Chris Lau (@hkchrislau) August 11, 2019
They hurled bricks at officers and ignored warnings to leave the Sham Shui Po area before tear gas was deployed, police said, calling the march an “unauthorised assembly”.
Protesters used metal fencing and plastic ties to construct makeshift barricades and block the road near the local police station, shining blue lasers at the building as officers held up a flag warning the crowd to disperse.
Nearby, protesters wearing gas masks gathered outside a police station in Cheung Sha Wan, as officers wearing protective gear looked down at them from a tall wall around the station.
Across Victoria Harbour, a large group of mostly young protesters marched down the middle of Hennessey Road, a main shopping drag in the Causeway Bay area, as a rally was held in nearby Victoria Park.
Many wore face masks to shield their identities, and a few had helmets. Others just carried backpacks over the black T-shirts that have become their uniform.
#HongKong police made mass arrests in Causeway Bay on Sunday eve – aided by men who appeared to be undercover officers dressed as protesters. HKFP footage showed one of the men assisting in an arrest of a bloodied activist. Full story: https://t.co/2ZQIrsUKnI pic.twitter.com/wrY2xSaI2I
— Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@hkfp) August 11, 2019
“We hope the world knows that Hong Kong is not the Hong Kong it used to be,” said one protester, Louisa Ho. “China is doing more and more to pressure Hong Kong, its people and its organisations.”
Following a rally at the centrally located Victoria Park, protesters fanned out across the city, often playing a cat-and-mouse game with the police.
At the same time, a more subdued sit-in at the Hong Kong airport stretched into its third day.
“They have this philosophy here … It’s actually based on Bruce Lee, the legend … of kung fu, who had this philosophy of ‘be water’,” Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride said, reporting from Hong Kong.
“It basically means that water at times can be strong. It can be a torrent, at other times it can be soft. It’s difficult to grasp hold of, it changes, it morphs. That’s what they’re sort of basing their tactics on.”
While riot police fired tear gas and arrested 16 people, the two sides avoided the lengthy pitched battles that have been seen in recent weeks.
“Our aim is no injuries, no bleeding and not getting arrested,” said a 17-year-old student protester who gave his family name as Chan.
The protest movement has been seen as the biggest threat to Beijing’s rule of the semi-autonomous Chinese city since its handover from the British in 1997.
The city’s Beijing-appointed leader Lam has ruled out granting the protesters’ demands.
On Saturday, she addressed students at Hong Kong army cadets camp and warned that the city was “suffering from external worries and internal perils”.
“Every person who cherishes Hong Kong and loves peace should work hard together and safeguard our beautiful home.”
But the protesters insist they have no plans to back down.
“There is no chance of retreating, and as a Hong Konger, this is the last hope we see of being able to achieve democracy,” said a 20-year-old protester who gave his last name as Lam.