A man with a knife slashed several people and bit off part of an ear of a local pro-democracy politician as Hong Kong anti-government protesters crowded shopping centres in running clashes with police on Sunday.
Flashmob rallies erupted inside multiple shopping centres across the international finance hub, sparking frequent clashes with riot police.
Footage showed Andrew Chiu, a local pro-democracy councillor, had his ear bitten off after trying to subdue the attacker, while a second man was seen unconscious in a growing pool of blood as bystanders desperately tried to stem wounds to his back.
Local media said the man told his victims that Hong Kong belongs to China. Witnesses told local media that a Mandarin-speaking man attacked people shortly after shouting pro-Beijing slogans.
The alleged assailant, wearing a grey T-shirt, was then beaten bloody by the crowd.
Police said protesters vandalised a restaurant in a mall after peaceful chanting of slogans in the 22nd straight weekend of protests by Hong Kong people furious at perceived Chinese meddling in the former British colony which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Police made several arrests as the standoff lasted into the night, with residents jeering police from the roadside and balconies of nearby apartments, chanting “leave now” and more Cantonese expletives.
Police fired tear gas, outside the East Hotel in Taikoo Shing, to try to break up the crowds.
“These police are not what they used to be,” said Julie, 24, giving police the middle finger. “They come in here and push us around. It is not right.”
Police fired pepper spray at reporters when they got too close. One journalist was arrested.
“This is out of control. This was a peaceful protest. And these people are just local residents, we live around here,” said Desmond Fong, 28, who works in marketing.
He was out shopping for shoes when the protest erupted.
There were also running battles, vandalism and scuffles in and around malls in the New Territories towns of Tai Po, Tuen Mun and Sha Tin, where police fired pepper spray as protesters hurled abuse.
Protesters built a street barricade in Tai Po.
Pro-democracy protesters have vandalised Hong Kong businesses seen as being pro-China and in July daubed China’s Liaison Office, the key symbol of Chinese sovereignty, with graffiti.
Cleaners swept up broken glass at the Hong Kong office of China’s official Xinhua news agency on Sunday, one of the buildings vandalised as activists hurled petrol bombs and set fire to metro stations.
Xinhua condemned the attack by what it said were “barbaric thugs” who broke doors and security systems and threw fire and paint bombs into the lobby.
“The practice of the black rioters once again shows that ‘stopping the violence and restoring order’ is Hong Kong’s most important and urgent task at present,” a spokesperson for Xinhua said in a Facebook post.
On Saturday and early Sunday, police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon at protesters as the violence spilled from Hong Kong island across the harbour to Kowloon.
One of the protesters’ key demands is an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality.
There have been several injuries during five months of unrest, including a protester shot in the chest and a policeman slashed in the neck, but no deaths since the protests began in June.
Hong Kong returned to China under a “one country, two systems” formula which guarantees its freedoms for 50 years.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has a garrison in Hong Kong but troops have remained in barracks since the protests began.
Last month, protesters targeted PLA barracks with lasers prompting troops to hoist a banner warning they could be arrested. Senior PLA officers have said violence will not be tolerated.