Hong Kong Police Arrest Six in Clash With Democracy ProtestersFion Li, Bei Hu and Dominic Lau
Hong Kong police arrested six pro-democracy protesters after clashes overnight outside the government headquarters in the center of the city that left at least one officer injured.
Five men and one woman between the ages of 16 and 29 were taken into custody on offences of forcible entry into government premises, disorderly conduct in a public place and assaulting officers, according to a government statement today. An officer sustained injuries to his right shoulder in the clashes, in which protesters charged a cordon, and police used pepper spray after warnings, the government said.
The violence marks an escalation in tensions as activists try to pressure mainland China to allow a more open election for Hong Kong’s top official post in 2017. The rally that began yesterday was held by students who boycotted classes this week, and was one of a series of protests before a mass sit-in in the central business district that’s planned for next week.
Hundreds of activists chanted “reclaim civic square, reclaim the Hong Kong people’s future” and “release the students” after chaotic scenes that saw some carried away for medical treatment. Anti-riot police with helmets and shields clashed with protesters defending themselves with umbrellas and warding off pepper spray by applying plastic wraps over their eyes
Hong Kong Cable TV said that seven people were injured, while a report this morning on Radio Television Hong Kong said at least 21 were hurt, including four police officers, 11 government headquarters employees and security guards.
China said last month candidates for the 2017 election must be vetted by a committee, angering activists who say the group is packed with business executives and lawmakers favoring Beijing. Thousands of students boycotted classes starting Sept. 22 to express their dissatisfaction.
About 150 protesters climbed over the fence surrounding the east-wing forecourt of the Hong Kong headquarters on Tim Mei Avenue, according to the government statement. About 100 people were still sitting in the forecourt at the time, according to the statement issued at 8:23 a.m.
Joshua Wong, founder of a student activist group Scholarism, was dragged away by police, television footage showed. RTHK earlier reported that 12 men and one woman had been arrested, including two under the age of 18.
Benny Tai and Chan Kin-man, two leaders of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement, came to show their support, RTHK reported. They plan to stay with the students at the risk of arrest, and their movement may have to prepare for the same degree of force used by the police overnight, Tai said in Cable TV footage.
A committee will meet to discuss whether to extend the class boycott, RTHK reported on its website, citing Tommy Cheung, president of the student union at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Earlier, demonstrators said they wanted to reclaim the protest spot unofficially called civic square, which the government had sealed off with a metal fence. Talking to Cable TV, Alex Chow, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said they needed to escalate their action as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying ignored requests to meet them.
Organizers of the Occupy Central movement this week invited people to join a “democracy banquet” on China’s National Day on Oct. 1, signaling the start of a plan to paralyze Hong Kong’s business district.
Leung has said that protesters and opposition lawmakers run the risk of China canceling the popular election, and people should be “pragmatic” about the pace of reforms.
Organizers of Occupy Central said Sept. 25 that they expect 10,000 people to join a rally in the business district to demand broader voting rights. Participants should bring enough food and water for two to three days for the sit-in protest that will last days, Chan, a co-founder of the activist group, told reporters, without giving a specific date for the event.
“Citizens should start preparing physically and psychologically now for civil disobedience,” said Chan, an associate professor of sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “We insist on non-violent means. If we encounter the police and anti-Occupy Central people, we should not do anything that could hurt them physically, psychologically and financially.”