Hundreds of protesters gathered on Monday at a crowded commercial street in Hong Kong for a pro-democracy rally that drew pro-Beijing counter-protesters while dozens of police formed a line to keep the two sides apart.

A series of tweets capturing the scene of the conflict illustrates the tension brewing among protesters as soon as the rally kicked off.

“There’s a saying that goes ‘yesterday was Tibet, today is Taiwan, tomorrow it could be Hong Kong’”, a local Chinese activist anxiously told me while distributing flyers showing a list of a thousand missing persons’ names from China.

Ying Lee, a dentist-turned-activist, has observed National Day on October 1 to voice dissent against enforced disappearances. Preferred to be called Lee, she became one of the hundreds of proponents in a rally organized by the Civic Party on National Day.

Lee is advocates for an unheard-of organization called Friends of Conscience (FOC). The local group takes root in a small network of people like Lee inspired to reopen cases of those still missing. A reporter from China founded the FOC in response to the Tiananmen Square Massacre and in pursuit to shake up the general public who “keep activists’ arbitrary imprisonment at bay”.

One counter-protester who preferred not to be named said all pro-democracy groups are “being financed by a third party and they are conspiring against real Chinese people.” Representing Voice of Loving Hong Kong, a popularly known pro-Beijing organization, the counter-protester said the pro-independence movements fuels an anti-Hong Kong sentiment.

“We are Hongkongers and should realize our rights as a Chinese society would not have come true if it were not for Beijing,” the counter-protester said.

Criticism of the US regarding the trade war with China was also levelled at pro-democracy protesters. According to a tweet posted by an HKU student, one protester constantly chanting anti-US slogans threw and smashed an iPhone on the ground in a symbolic act of defiance.

The rally comes one week after the Hong Kong government’s unprecedented ban of the separatist political camp – the Hong Kong National Party – on national security grounds.

According to the police, no one was injured during the confrontations.

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