148 arrested in Hong Kong during Monday's protests

AFP File photo for representation

Hong Kong police on Tuesday said 148 people were arrested during running battles with protesters the day before, the largest daily toll since huge pro-democracy protests kicked off two months ago.

On Monday Hong Kong buckled under a general strike followed by the most widespread and sustained clashes so far with tear gas fired at least a dozen locations against increasingly violent protesters.

"During the operation yesterday, the police arrested 148 people consisting of 95 males and 53 females, aged between 13 and 63-years-old," superintendent John Tse told reporters.

Over the last two weeks both police and protesters have resorted to increasingly confrontational tactics, plunging the city into a crisis.

At Tuesday's press conference police revealed that they fired some 800 tear gas rounds on Monday -- almost as many as the 1,000 rounds they said they had fired throughout the whole of the last two months.

Riot police also discharged 140 rubber bullets and 20 sponge rounds.

The press conference revealed details of how widespread Monday's battles were against the police, who have become a lightning rod for public anger and are derided by protesters as Beijing's enforces.

Police stations came under attack from protesters hurling stones, eggs, bottles and using slingshots that fired bricks.

An apartment complex that houses police officers and their families also came under attack.

Tse said a total of 21 police stations were "affected" by Monday's protests -- although it was unclear if all of them were besieged.

Media documented tear gas being fired in at least a dozen districts on Monday.

"Within two short months, the rioters have recklessly destroyed the rule of law. Their acts have seriously hampered public safety," Tse said.

Protesters have countered that police have long been using excessive violence against their movement -- accusations the force denies.

They also say they were forced to adopt more confrontational tactics after peaceful rallies failed to win any concessions.

Reporters covering the press conference staged a brief protest at its start, repeatedly tapping their pens on tables and helmets and donning high-visibility vests used in the field as a fellow journalist read out a statement.

"We strongly condemn the police for abusing their force and obstructing the reporting by journalists," a reporter said on behalf of the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

The group released a statement earlier on Tuesday saying "police have continued to obstruct reporting by aiming high beam lights at cameras... intentionally chase-beating them and aiming tear gas canisters directly at them".

"The situation is growing increasingly out of control," it added.

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