Hundreds of supporters of Chinese rule in Hong Kong have clashed with democracy protesters in one of the city’s busiest shopping districts.
Counter-protesters stormed the city, angry at the pro-democracy campaign, which has blocked parts of the city. Police were called to calm tensions between the two groups after reports that banners were ripped up, tents destroyed, water bottles were thrown and some people spat at others in Mong Kok.
Officers formed a human chain to keep the two groups apart.
Some pro-democracy supporters held umbrellas for police – umbrellas having become a symbol of the protests – while Beijing supporters shouted at officers, demanding the protesters be removed.
The pro-China protesters were said to be visibly older than pro-democracy group and yelled, shoved and tried to drag the younger protesters away. Many shouted their anger that the protesters were preventing them from going to work and earning a living.
“Give us Mong Kok back, we Hong Kongers need to eat!” one man shouted as he attempted to remove the barricades. The students linked arms to stand their ground. The scuffles were the most chaotic since police used tear gas and pepper spray last weekend to try to disperse protesters pushing for greater electoral reforms for the territory.
In Causeway Bay, another area under student occupation, groups of young men in face masks were forced away from the protesters by police. Police spokesman, Steve Hui appealed to the members of the public to “observe the laws of Hong Kong when they are expressing their views.”
Police were hard-pressed to keep order and the protesters, led by students, said that if authorities did not act to protect peaceful demonstrators, they would go back on an agreement to hold talks with the city government as proposed by Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
Tens of thousands took to the streets of Hong Kong a week ago to demand democracy in the former British colony, the main issue being a free voting system to choose their new leader in 2017. Numbers have recently dwindled, however, as people returned to work following a two-day holiday.
Leung Chun-ying agreed to open talks with pro-democracy protesters on Thursday but has refused the give in to their demands that he resign.
Meanwhile, Beijing has signalled its opposition to the protests with a front-page commentary in the country’s official People’s Daily.
“For a few consecutive days, some people have been making trouble in Hong Kong, stirring up illegal assemblies in the name of seeking ‘real universal suffrage’.” “Such acts have outrightly violated the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s law, as well as the principle of the rule of law, and they are doomed to fail.”