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Hong Kong holiday protests small as stricken city cleans up

Riot police officers detain a man during an anti-government protest in front of a police station in Mong Kok district, Hong Kong, China October 7, 2019.

[HONG KONG] A fresh round of Hong Kong protests remained small on Monday night as the city cleaned up from a chaotic weekend in which demonstrators battled with police, vandalised shops and paralysed swaths of the Asian financial hub.

A small crowd gathered Monday outside the Eastern Magistrates' courthouse where two protesters - an 18-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman - detained early Saturday on charges including violating the mask ban appeared. They were released on bail and ordered to abide by a curfew and not leave Hong Kong, according to RTHK.

The violence - erupting after leader Carrie Lam invoked an emergency law for the first time in more than half a century to ban face masks - dealt another blow to the Hong Kong economy on a three-day weekend normally packed with tourists.

Activists had called for protests across Hong Kong again Monday, starting at 8 pm, but they failed to gain significant traction.

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Riot police were on standby in parts of the city despite the sparse groups of black-shirted demonstrators milling around areas including the central Causeway Bay shopping district, a focal point for the violence, where some shops had pulled their shutters down early.

The MTR Corp. provided only limited train service Monday, a public holiday, and ended it completely at 6 pm, except for an express to the airport, to allow for repairs to vandalised stations. Financial markets were closed for the holiday, although many shops and restaurants were open.

Hong Kong's Hospital Authority canceled afternoon appointments at 13 outpatient clinics "to ensure patient and staff safety." The Education Bureau urged students to steer clear of "unlawful activities" and advised checking traffic conditions before heading to school Tuesday.

The latest protests followed warnings from opposition leaders that Mrs Lam's decision to invoke a colonial-era emergency law to impose the mask ban would only further anger protesters fighting for greater political freedoms, including the right to elect their own leaders.

"There is growing distrust against the government, against the police," said Eric Cheung, a law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong and a member of the committee that elects the city's leader.

The continued violence leaves Mrs Lam and her backers in Beijing with a difficult choice: Either take more drastic steps that could further erode Hong Kong's autonomy and prompt an international backlash, or come up with a political compromise that could produce a leader who challenges its rule over the city.