Hong Kong protest escalation: Tear gas, water cannons and a police officer firing a warning shot

The tension between law enforcement and pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong escalated over the weekend as police used tear gas, deployed water cannons and drew their guns at protesters — including one officer who fired his weapon in what authorities said was a warning shot.

For the first time during the summer's 11 weeks of protests in the Chinese region, authorities deployed two water cannon trucks to push back demonstrators — who again confronted authorities, taking to the streets on Saturday and Sunday. A cannon was fired at least once, though it didn't seem to reach demonstrators, who were building barriers across roads that were otherwise peaceful.

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Protesters in the outlying Tsuen Wan district wore gas masks and threw bricks and gasoline bombs in the direction of police as police fired tear gas canisters in response.

Policemen pull out their guns after a confrontation with demonstrators during a protest in Hong Kong on Sunday in the outlying Tsuen Wan district.

Policemen pull out their guns after a confrontation with demonstrators during a protest in Hong Kong on Sunday in the outlying Tsuen Wan district. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Most protesters eventually gave up Sunday, but the few who remained chased after police officers with sticks and rods. Six officers drew their weapons, and one fired a warning shot into the sky — an action officials said they had no choice but to take as they were surrounded by demonstrators. Still, the gunshot drew plenty of questions and criticism.

"The escalation you're seeing now is just a product of our government's indifference toward the people of Hong Kong," Rory Wong told The Associated Press, echoing the protesters' belief the government won't respond to peaceful protests.

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Authorities said they arrested 36 people — including a 12-year-old — for offenses including unlawful assembly, possession of an offensive weapon and assaulting police officers. On Saturday, police said they arrested 29 people for the same offenses.

At least 21 police officers were injured Sunday during the pro-democracy protests, Mak Chin-ho, assistant police commissioner said.

At least 21 police officers were injured Sunday during the pro-democracy protests, Mak Chin-ho, assistant police commissioner said. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Mak Chin-ho, the assistant police commissioner, said 21 officers were injured on Sunday and called the violent protesters a threat to public safety.

"The police have zero tolerance for violent acts," he said, urging citizens to ask themselves: "Is this the Hong Kong you would like to see?"

Lawmakers on each side of the divide blamed the other for the violence. Starry Lee, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said, "You can say a lot of different opinions to the government...but violence is different. If we can accept violence, our city will be ruined."

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Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement started with the now-suspended extradition bill, which would have allowed suspects to be sent to mainland China to face trial, and has expanded to encompass a general concern that China is chipping away at the rights of Hong Kong residents.

The movement has five demands, including democratic elections and an independent inquiry into what it alleges is police violence in breaking up demonstrations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.