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Riot Police Clash With Students Protesting for Democracy in Hong Kong

At least 34 people were injured after police used pepper spray and riot shields to drive back demonstrators occupying Hong Kong's government headquarters.

by Liz Fields
Sep 27 2014, 4:05pm

Photo via AP/Apple Daily

Riot police clashed with thousands of students and their supporters who infiltrated and occupied Hong Kong's government headquarters overnight, demanding universal suffrage in the semiautonomous region.

At least 34 people were injured after police used pepper spray and riot shields to drive back an estimated 150 demonstrators. Some protesters scaled the government compound's metal barricades and others entered through an unlocked gate late Friday night before staging the sit-in.

The number of supporters has swelled since the students began huddling on the grounds, and authorities are anticipating another tense night Saturday as protestors appeared ready for another campout. At least 74 people have been arrested so far, according to the Associated Press.

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Police in Hong Kong surrounded student protesters at Civic Square near government buildings on September 26.

The clashes came at the end of a week-long, pro-democracy boycott of classes by students protesting changes to the election process announced by China last month.

Organizers said Friday's protest was not the start of a broader campaign of civil disobedience organized by the pro-democracy Occupy movement, which for weeks has been threatening to lockdown the city's business district if China failed to grant full and open elections in 2017 as promised.

Several Occupy Central movement leaders joined the students Saturday ahead of an expected mass rally around Hong Kong's civic square in the city's financial heartland next Wednesday on National Day, a national holiday that celebrates the foundation of the People's Republic of China. 

Some supporters dropped off food, water, and supplies during the day, while volunteers handed out plastic goggles and umbrellas to shield protesters from pepper spray. Many criticized the police for using excessive force on the peaceful demonstrators.

"Our movement is peaceful and does not use aggression," University of Hong Kong students' union president Yvonne Leung told the Associated Press. "Students who decided to storm inside (the government complex) knew about their legal responsibility."

Police clashed with pro-democracy protesters outside Hong Kong's government headquarters.

A number of protestors also reported that police stripped them of their basic human rights, and access to water and toilets.

"The men used plastic bottles to relieve themselves and the women used plastic bags inside Civic Square," one student, Winnie Cheng, told the South China Morning Post.

Police superintendent Steve Hui Chun-tak told local media that 11 security personnel at a nearby building and four policemen were injured, including one officer who received a 4-inch-deep gouge from an umbrella. He said police acted appropriately and issued sufficient warnings before dispersing the crowd.

University and high school students are among those who have been the most vocal in criticizing the Chinese government's expanding control over Hong Kong, which has historically enjoyed greater freedom than cities on the mainland.

This video shows student protesters trying to break through a line of police officers outside of Chief Executive Chun-ying Leung's residence in an unsuccessful bid to reach his car.

Since Hong Kong was handed back to Beijing in 1997 following 150 years of British colonial rule, it has been under the mainland policy of "one country two systems," where its leadership has been chosen by a select committee of mostly pro-China business tycoons.

Beijing had promised full and fair elections in 2017, but the city's first democratic popular vote was disrupted by the Chinese communist party's announcement late last month that open nominations for a candidate would no longer be an option.

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Instead, the election would be limited to two or three candidates subject to approval by a nominating panel similar to the existing board in charge of overseeing the city's leadership. Critics say the move has essentially barred opposition democrats from the ballot.

One 17-year-old student, Joshua Wong, was among those arrested Friday night. He yelled and kicked as he was dragged away by police.

"The mission of fighting for universal suffrage does not rest upon the young people, it is everyone's responsibility," Wong shouted to a cheering crowd, according to Reuters. "I don't want the fight for democracy to be passed down to the next generation. This is our responsibility."

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Follow Liz Fields on Twitter:@lianzifields

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