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Beijing Supporters Clash with Pro-Democracy Camp in Hong Kong

Demonstrators recently set up a tent city blocking key areas of the city's financial hub, and sparks flew as a large pro-Beijing group responded with a counter-protest.
Photo by Kin Cheung/AP

Hundreds of anti-Occupy protesters are rallying against Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, which has waged a weeks-long campaign against Beijing's refusal to allow free and open elections, and recently set up a tent city blocking key areas of the city's financial hub.

At least 200 blue-ribbon protesters marched through the streets of Kowloon toward Mongkok on Sunday, where Occupy demonstrators — many of them students donning yellow ribbons — were gathered.

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Police held both groups of protesters back while they shouted at each other. Amid the clamor, accusations of "American dogs" could be heard coming from the blue-ribbon line, referencing China's claim that western powers are fueling the pro-democracy movement.

On the other side, chants like "go back to China," were hurled by yellow ribbon-wearers, while some sung "Happy Birthday," a song which has been increasingly used to drown out the voices of counter-protesters.

Pro-Beijing supporters and alleged gang members clash with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Read more here.

Opposition to the pro-democracy movement has been growing in recent days as local business owners and residents voice anger at protesters blocking thoroughfares and access to buildings and roads.

Along Gloucester and Harcourt roads, at least 200 tents have been set up by Occupy protesters who slept and camped out in the mild tropical air, some singing with guitars, others reading, or playing games. Students have also set up study areas replete with affixed umbrellas, which have become a uniting symbol of the movement, used throughout the demonstrations to protect protesters from tear gas and pepper spray fired by police.

Study space in Admiralty. Very popular among protesters. Photo from— Grace Tsoi (@gracehw)October 12, 2014

"Democracy is very important but people's livelihoods are also very important," one taxi-driver Chan Tak-keung shouted at the students sitting in the tent camp Sunday, according to Reuters.

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"We want to have a peaceful life. I don't want anybody to occupy Hong Kong. They are making our home a mess," retired civil servant Stanley Yeung, 63, told AFP. "They cannot threaten the central government with a knife at its neck. China is a very powerful country now. Too much freedom and democracy is no good."

The protests, which at their peak involved some 100,000 people, died down to a few hundred early this week, as exhausted demonstrators returned to work and negotiations between authorities and protest leaders began. But the movement resurged once more over the weekend as talks broke down, with numbers rising back to an estimated 10,000.

Hong Kong protesters defy deadline to disperse amid hints of crackdown. Read more here.

Dozens of people have been arrested or injured in the weeks following Beijing's announcement of restrictive electoral reforms in late August. Hong Kong was set to make its first transition to democratic leadership in 2017 since it was handed back to China after 150 years of British rule.

The Asian financial center has operated under the formula of "one country, two systems" since 1997, but early promises of a free and fair election were halted when China announced all leadership candidates must first be vetted by a small committee of pro-Beijing elites.

With no end to the protests in sight, Hong Kong's Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying, said the movement had "spun out of control" in an interview with local media Sunday. Leung also said there was "almost zero chance" of China accepting the demands listed by the demonstrators.

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Leung said he would not resign amid growing calls for him to step down, and said he could not predict the events of coming days, but that authorities would act as necessary.

Hong Kong Chief Executive won't resign despite massive protests, as China issues ominous warning. Read more here.

New slogans, in stylish calligraphy:

— Austin Ramzy (@austinramzy)October 5, 2014

"We absolutely would not prefer clearing the venue, but if one day the venue has to be cleared, I believe the police will use their professional judgment and training using minimum amount of force," he said.

The call for universal suffrage in Hong Kong has been supported by many Taiwanese who are closely watching events unfold, as their own country is currently being persuaded to reunite with China under a similar deal of "one country, two systems."

"I want to tell those who oppose protests and Occupy Central, that whether you are opposing because of your interest, because it affects traffic… or because you were paid to do so, these reasons cannot be the reason why we should accept persecution," Taiwan-based protester Shih Shu-hua, told a crowd at the tent protest site.

"Civil disobedience is the people's most basic right," Shih, who was also involved in Taipei's "Sunflower" students' movement this year, was quoted as saying by local media. "We support genuine universal suffrage for Hong Kong."

China's laissez-faire Internet censoring. Read more here.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter:@lianzifields