The huge crowds on Monday defied government calls to go home after Sunday's chaotic scenes, bringing key districts of the Asian financial hub to a standstill as they vowed to stay put until the Chinese government grants them free elections.

Sunday's violence saw riot police fire clouds of tear gas as they struggled to control the protesters, in one of the biggest ever challenges to Beijing's rule of the semi-autonomous city.

The anger gave way to a lighter atmosphere on Monday as riot police retreated, leaving huge masses of protesters in control of at least four major thoroughfares around the city.

But although there were few police on the scene, some protesters feared a repeat of Sunday's clashes, donning goggles and masks to protect themselves against tear gas.



"We can't relax too much," graphic designer Felix Kan said. "This is still China - you never know what could happen," she added.

The festival atmosphere was tempered early on Tuesday as protesters attempted to second guess what the next police move would be.

Organizers also announced to the crowds that water and food supply stations had been targeted in attacks at some of the protest sites, but appealed for calm.

In Mongkok, a busy shopping hub, police were called after a car drove at high speed past crowds of protesters, though no one was reported injured.

The demonstrators are furious over last month's announcement by Beijing that while it will allow the city's next leader to be elected in 2017, it will insist on vetting the candidates, with critics branding the move a 'fake democracy'.

Public anger over rampant inequality is also at its highest in years in a city once renowned for its stability.

Cantonese pop music filled the air during the second day of what some are dubbing the 'umbrella revolution', as protesters have been using the canopies as shields against tear gas and the scorching sun alike.
    
One British sympathizer won huge cheers as he set up a barbecue and began handing out hamburgers and sausages to the protesters.

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