Hong Kong police fired tear gas at protesters on Saturday after thousands of pro-democracy protesters rallied through the streets for expanded democratic rights and autonomy.

Hong Kong police had warned protesters against deviating from an approved route for Saturday’s pro-democracy march, saying they would intervene if protesters refused to comply with police orders.

But protesters refused to comply, instead establishing road blocks and disrupting public transport.

Several pro-democracy protesters had earlier removed a Chinese national flag from a pole and threw it into the iconic Victoria Harbour. Others established road blocks at a major tunnel and nearby road.

Read more: Hong Kong strike: Can protesters shut down the city?

Not ‘police backup’

Earlier this week, the Chinese military also said it was prepared to intervene if the situation becomes “intolerable.”

However, the editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times, Hu Xijin, suggested a military intervention was unlikely.

“The (People’s Liberation Army) Hong Kong Garrison is a symbol of national sovereignty and cannot be regarded as Hong Kong’s police backup,” said Hu.

But that hasn’t stopped demonstrators from worrying about the rising use of violence against protesters by Hong Kong police.

“I’m a little worried about whether the police force might use violent ways on the demonstrators, because the route of the demonstration is a little bit narrow, and if we want to leave it might be difficult to get away from the police,” said one protester.

Read more: Opinion: Could China send the military to occupy Hong Kong?

Historic protests

Hong Kong has witnessed historic protests over the summer. What first started as demonstrations against a controversial extradition law have blossomed into a movement fighting for expanded democratic rights and autonomy.

However, protests have started to turn violent, with police taking bolder actions to disperse protesters, including firing rubber bullets and arrest dozens of participants.

Earlier this week, Beijing said it supported police and city authorities, saying they have the responsibility to maintain the rule of law. “Violence is violence, unlawful acts are unlawful,” said a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing.

Read more: Are Hong Kong protests a warning for Taiwan?

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Hong Kong’s Ronny Tong | Conflict Zone

ls/aw (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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