Sunday, 28 September 2014

Unrest in China, protesters clash with police

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Hong Kong: Tear gas and clashes at
democracy protest
28 September 2014 China
Hong Kong police have used tear gas to disperse
thousands of pro-democracy protesters near the
government complex, after a week of escalating
Dozens of demonstrators were arrested, with
hundreds vowing to stay put to continue the
Protesters want the Chinese government to scrap
rules allowing it to vet Hong Kong's top leader in
the 2017 poll.
Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung said the
demonstration was "illegal" and elections would go
ahead as planned.
China has also condemned the protest, and offered
"its strong backing" to the Hong Kong
The broader Occupy Central protest movement
threw its weight behind the student-led protests
on Sunday, bringing forward a mass civil
disobedience campaign due to start on
Protesters blocked a busy thoroughfare that runs
through the heart of Hong Kong's financial district
on Sunday, clashing with police as they tried to
join a mass sit-in outside government
Police used pepper spray and repeatedly shot tear
gas into the air to drive back the protesters from
the busy Connaught Road. Protesters used
umbrellas and face masks to defend themselves.
Many protesters remained in one of central
Hong Kong's main avenues on Sunday evening
Crowds of protesters were earlier dispersed by
volleys of tear gas but later returned
As evening fell, the police lobbed tear gas
canisters into the crowd, scattering some of the
protesters. But many of the demonstrators
regrouped and retreated to a nearby park.
According to the AFP news agency, some 3,000
protesters blocked a second major thoroughfare in
the Mongkok district of Kowloon late on Sunday.
At the scene: Juliana Liu, Hong Kong
After clashes with police earlier in the week, pro-
democracy protesters appeared to be much better
prepared on Sunday.
Many arrived sporting raincoats or wrapped in
plastic with swimming goggles over their eyes -
items chosen to protest against the sting of tear
gas and pepper spray.
Still, there was surprise and chaos when the first
round of tear gas was fired in the early evening.
Thousands of people ran for cover when the
canisters hit the ground, spewing white smoke and
a distinctively sharp smell into the air.
I was helped by a middle-aged couple who
noticed my growing baby bump and were
concerned for my health. They pressed a water-
soaked blue handkerchief into my face to reduce
the amount of tear gas I would breath in. But they
disappeared before I could thank them properly.
The student organisers behind the protest, the
Hong Kong Federation of Students, have appealed
for students to retreat due to fears that police
could use rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
A co-organiser of Occupy Central, Chan Kin-man,
says he supports the students' decision.
Police said they had arrested 78 people on Sunday
on charges of "forcible entry into government
premises, unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct in
public place, assaulting public officers and
obstructing police officers in due execution of
It comes after the arrest of more than 70 people in
Saturday's protests, including prominent student
activist leader Joshua Wong, who has since been
Thousands joined a sit-in organised by students
outside government headquarters this weekend,
bolstering a week-old protest, which began as a
strike by students calling for democratic reforms.
Occupy Central had originally planned to paralyse
the central business district next Wednesday, but
organisers advanced the protest and changed the
location in an apparent bid to harness momentum
from student protests.
The announcement came early on Sunday, with a
statement by the movement saying Mr Leung had
"failed to deliver on political reform".
But speaking in his first public statement since the
protests began, Mr Leung said that he and his
government had "been listening attentively to
members of [the] public".
He said that political consultations would continue
on the planned changes but warned that "resolute"
action would be taken against the "illegal
Umbrellas were used by activists to avoid the
effects of tear gas and pepper spray
The main thoroughfare in central Hong Kong
was blocked for several kilometres in each
Students and activists have been camped
outside the government premises all weekend
The protesters had also called for further talks but
it is not clear how far - if at all - Mr Leung's
mention of further consultations will be seen as
recognising their demands.
A spokesman for China's Hong Kong and Macau
affairs office said that Beijing "firmly opposes all
illegal activities that could undermine rule of law
and jeopardise 'social tranquillity' and it offers its
strong backing" to the Hong Kong government,
Xinhua news agency reports.
Police protected a cordon outside the
government offices on Saturday night
Unrest began when the Chinese government
announced that candidates for the 2017 chief
executive election would first have to be approved
by a nominating committee.
Activists have argued that this does not amount to
true democracy.