Hong Kong police are under fire from a human rights group for using tear gas and pepper spray on protesters occupying the main business and financial district.
The action was unreasonable and an abuse of power, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Monday, citing Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor.
The last time tear gas was used in a demonstration in Hong Kong was during the 2005 World Trade Organization meeting when riot police clashed with South Korean protesters, it said.
But this time, the use of force on the unarmed, peaceful protesters is excessive, the group was quoted as saying.
Earlier reports said riot police used rubber bullets to hold off a surging crowd.
Police Commissioner Andy Tsang denied the claims, saying officers have been instructed to use minimum force only if necessary.
In a statement, the police also denied reports that a curfew is being planned.
It said officers were forced to use tear gas after some demonstrators tried to storm police barriers and refused to step back despite numerous warnings.
Video footage showed police hoisting orange flags signaling officers to advance on the protesters if they did not move back, the report said.
A police spokesman denied such a move and said it was a misunderstanding.
The Hong Kong Federation of Students took to social media around 10 p.m. Sunday to warn protesters that a rubber bullet attack was imminent, according to reports.
Hong Kong has seen tear gas used on demonstrators only five other times in the past — the Double 10 riots in 1956, the Star Ferry fare protests in 1966, the leftist riots in 1967, the post-Tiananmen incident in Mong Kok in 1989 and the 1995 uprising at a Vietnamese refugee camp in Whitehead.
Meanwhile, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam called on the protesters to obey the law and remain peaceful and rational.
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