An Australian journalist was left coughing heavily on camera during a live report after being charged by riot police during a dramatic train station protest in Hong Kong.
The dramatic CNN segment began with the news anchor describing how protesters were understood to be clashing with police at an unauthorised rally over the weekend.
She explained how ten of thousands of activists had defied police orders by gathering at a subway station before attempting to hand over the report to journalist Anna Coren, who was at the scene.
But as the feed cuts across, Coren cuts off the anchor, saying she needs to speak.
“Let me talk to you,” she injects. “Let me tell you what’s happening.
“We’ve just been charged by riot police up the escalators, into the train station. This is absolute mayhem.
“They have just come at the protesters wielding batons, spraying pepper spray. It is pandemonium in here.
“I have no idea how they’re planning to disperse this crowd. It is absolute chaos. I’ve never witnessed anything quite like this.”
Coren claims the protesters inside the station were peaceful and just standing around before the police charged in.
“I want the world to see what’s going on here,” Coren continues before directing the camera towards a group of black-clad riot officers wielding batons and shields. “The aggression is out of control.
“These are not protesters hurling bricks, they are just standing here.”
She said many of the protesters dispersed after the charge, but a hardcore of about 100 stayed — forcing the police into retreat.
Coren is wearing a gas mask, coughing and breathing heavily as protesters sputter around her.
After yet another weekend of chaos in Hong Kong, China has blamed Western forces and defended police conduct.
Yang Guang, spokesman for the Chinese Cabinet’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, said at a news briefing overnight that some “irresponsible people” in the West have applied “strange logic” to the protests.
He said this logic caused them to be sympathetic and tolerant to “violent crimes” while criticising the police force’s “due diligence”.
“At the end of the day, their intention is to create trouble in Hong Kong, make Hong Kong a problem to China, in order to contain China’s development,” he said, without mentioning any specific individuals or countries.
He added such attempts would come to nothing because Beijing wouldn’t tolerate outside interference in the affairs of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The Hong Kong protests began in early June as a call to withdraw an extradition bill that would have allowed people in the former British colony to be sent to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their legal rights would be threatened.
Since the Government indefinitely suspended the legislation, demonstrators have broadened their scope to demand greater democracy and government accountability.
Police on Sunday repeatedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets to drive back protesters blocking Hong Kong streets with road signs and umbrellas.
The protesters have demanded an independent inquiry into police conduct at the protests, which they say has been abusive.
At least one woman was knocked down when police used rods on Saturday to disperse crowds in Hong Kong’s Yuen Long area, where officers later charged into the train station featured on the CNN report.
Despite Ms Coren reporting that the protesters were just “standing there”, police say they were “holding iron poles, self-made shields and even removing fences from roads”.
Police also accused demonstrators of putting officers’ lives in danger by surrounding an occupied police vehicle.
Mr Yang said the Chinese Government firmly supported Hong Kong police.
“We understand the huge pressure facing the Hong Kong police and their families,” he said, “ … and would like to salute the Hong Kong police who have been fearlessly sticking to their posts and fulfilling their duties against all odds.”
Hong Kong’s government and police force have said the protests have placed considerable strain on their officers, who are dispatched in large numbers for the protests, which occur at least once a week and generally go late into the night despite repeated appeals to disband. Hong Kong authorities said these pressures made it difficult for police to act immediately when a band of white-clad assailants beat people inside the Yuen Long train station on July 21.
Protesters said the slow police response to that attack indicated that officers were colluding with the attackers — an allegation that authorities have refuted.
Last Monday, police arrested six men in connection with the attack, including some linked to triad gangs.
Pro-Beijing politicians in Hong Kong said the “general wishes” of the city’s residents were for the violence to stop immediately.
“Regardless of your stance, I think all this violence should not continue because it brings no benefit to any person,” said legislator Starry Lee. Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy politician, said she feared the Chinese Government’s statements would further inflame demonstrators.
“I’m so worried that what happened in Beijing this afternoon will actually help fan the fire of what’s already been a tsunami of protests in Hong Kong,” Mo said, noting that the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office appeared to fully support the police and Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam.
— with wires