Hong Kong protest: Watch as the stand-off between Chinese police and pro-democracy protesters continues into third night

Scenes of chaos as protesters clash with security forces over democratic reforms

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The Independent Online

Chinese police have rained tear gas canisters down on thousands of demonstrators occupying the heart of Honk Kong’s financial district and arrested scores during violent clashes over elections in the city.

Honk Kong has become the backdrop to scenes of chaos in recent days with demonstrators jamming busy roads and battling with security forces wielding pepper-spray. While the heavy use of tear gas has at points successfully dispersed the crowds, the protestors have regrouped and continued their action.

Police had not used tear gas in Hong Kong since breaking up protests by South Korean farmers against the World Trade Organisation in 2005.

Demonstrators decried what they have claimed were disproportionate tactics by the police. The authorities have said their response was commensurate with the security threat posed.

Yesterday Hong Kong’s Occupy Central Movement called for  the start of a campaign to blockade the financial district in a surprise announcement.

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Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying pledged “resolute” action against the protest movement known as Occupy Central with Love and Peace.

“The police are determined to handle the situation appropriately in accordance with the law,” Mr Leung said hours before the charge began.

 

A spokesperson for China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office added that the central government fully supported Hong Kong’s handling of the situation “in accordance with the law”.

The mass protests followed a week-long strike and a series of demonstrations in Hong Kong over Beijing’s refusal to allow genuine democratic reform in the semi-autonomous city.

Publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai, a key backer of the democratic movement, said he wanted as big a crowd of protesters as possible, after a week of student demonstrations, to thwart any crackdown.

“The more Hong Kong citizens come, the more unlikely the police can clear up the place,” said Mr Lai. “Even if we get beaten up, we cannot fight back. We will win this war with love and peace.”

Organisers said as many as 80,000 people thronged the streets in Admiralty, galvanised by the arrests of student activists on Friday. No independent estimate of the crowd numbers was available but the action is being seen as the most tenacious civil disobedience campaign since 1997. A week of protests escalated into violence when student-led demonstrators broke through a cordon late on Friday and scaled a fence to invade the city’s main government compound after a week of peaceful action.

The country’s Communist party has decreed that it will continue to exert influence on which candidates can stand in elections to the position of Chief Executive in Hong Kong, its effective leader. The elections are due to be held in in 2017.

On Friday riot police arrested at least 60 students who stormed the former British colony’s administrative headquarters. The initial arrests were then followed by sporadic violence which left around 30 injured.

Police have so far arrested 78 people, including Joshua Wong, the 17-year-old leader of student group Scholarism, who was dragged away after he called on the protesters to charge the government premises. He was still in detention yesterday. His parents said  it was an act of “political persecution”.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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