Protesters take rest after riot police use tear gas against them as thousands of people blocked the road in Hong Kong.

Thousands of protesters mass for a fourth night in Hong Kong

Hong Kong democracy protesters defied volleys of tear gas and police baton charges to stand firm in the centre of the global financial hub on Monday, one of the biggest political challenges for China since the Tiananmen Square crackdown 25 years ago.

Beijing made clear it would not tolerate dissent, and warned against any foreign interference as thousands of protesters massed for a fourth night in the city of more than seven million people.

“Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news briefing in Beijing.

The unrest, the worst in Hong Kong since China resumed its rule over the former British colony in 1997, sent white clouds of gas wafting among some of the world’s most valuable office towers before riot police suddenly withdrew around lunchtime on Monday. Weary protesters slept beside roads or sheltered from the sun beneath umbrellas, which have become a symbol of what some are calling the “Umbrella Revolution”..

Organisers have said that as many as 80,000 people have thronged the streets after the protests flared on Friday night.

The protests, with no single identifiable leader, bring together a mass movement of mostly tech-savvy students. The protests are expected to escalate on October 1, China’s National Day holiday, with residents of the nearby former Portuguese enclave of Macau planning a rally.

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