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Riot police use pepper spray to disperse pro-democracy activists inside a mall after a march at Sha Tin District of East New Territories, Hong Kong, China on July 14, 2019. Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Hong Kong lawmakers urge dialogue after Sunday clashes

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong lawmakers from both sides of the political spectrum urged action Monday in response to violent scuffles between police and protesters.

The demonstration Sunday in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin district was peaceful for most of the day, but fights broke out when police started clearing streets after nightfall. Some protesters retreated into a shopping complex where they and police hit each other with clubs and umbrellas.

Both pro-democracy legislators and ones who support China’s Communist Party-led central government held news conferences Monday to address the clashes.

“Both sides have to come out and establish communication channels,” said pro-Beijing lawmaker Starry Lee.

“I think (Chief Executive Carrie Lam) and also the bureau responsible should come out and respond to this issue,” Lee said. “Otherwise Hong Kong will be the loser and no Hong Kong person wants to see this happen again and again.”

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Large-scale protests began in Hong Kong last month in opposition to proposed extradition legislation that would allow people in Hong Kong to be sent for trials in mainland China, where critics say their legal rights would not be guaranteed. In response to a series of massive demonstrations calling for the bills’ withdrawal, Lam said the legislation was “dead.” But thousands have continued to take to the streets to call for greater government accountability and democratic reforms.

While largely peaceful, the protests have at times devolved into clashes between protesters and police, who have used pepper spray, bean bag rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas to quell demonstrators who have in turn called for police to be held responsible for their tactics.

Pro-democracy legislator Claudia Mo described the current tumult as “the biggest political and governance crisis Hong Kong has ever faced.”

“The whole of Hong Kong found it difficult to cope,” Mo said. “We urge once again Carrie Lam to come out and face the people.”