Hong Kong Protests Met with Arrests, Tear Gas (Updated)

Following a week of student strikes in Hong Kong over electoral reforms, protests spread and provoked a heavy police response over the weekend, with several of the protesters detained by police. From Chris Buckley and Alan Wong at the New York Times:

Overnight and into Saturday morning, the confrontation spilled onto the streets around the government offices. Hundreds of young protesters faced phalanxes of police officers with shields whose warnings to disperse went unheeded.

The nighttime standoff between hundreds of demonstrators and the well-prepared police force came at the end of a week of peaceful student protests over Beijing’s limited proposals for electoral change, released last month.

[…] In Hong Kong, anger with the Chinese government runs especially deep among people in their 30s and younger. This week, thousands of university students boycotted classes and attended assemblies to voice their complaints, and on Friday hundreds of high school students also abandoned classes for a day of protest near the government and legislative headquarters. [Source]

The South China Morning Post reports that 30,000 people joined the protests. Several protesters were detained by police, including Joshua Wong, the 17-year-old protest leader, who was later released. From a Channel 4 report:

Protesters swarmed on Hong Kong’s Admiralty overnight and gathered at police barricades surrounding more demonstrators who had earlier launched what they called a “new era” of civil disobedience to pile pressure on Beijing.

Riot police, in lines five deep in some places used pepper spray against activists and shot tear gas into the air.

[…] The crowds hurled abuse at police “cowards” as they fled several hundred yards, but they regrouped and by early evening on Sunday thousands of protesters throngerd streets leading to Hong Kong’s Central financial district.

Police used tear gas for the first time since they broke up protests by South Korean farmers against the World Trade Organisation in 2005.

Ivan Watson, Elizabeth Joseph, Anjali Tsui and Steve Almasy of CNN report that dozens of people have been injured so far in clashes with police:

At least 38 people were injured and hospitalized, the Hong Kong Information Services Department said Sunday. A spokesman gave no details on the extent of the injuries. The department earlier said six police officers were injured, but it was unclear whether they were included in the 38 figure.

Several of the young people occupying the business district told CNN they were going to stay overnight.

The student-led protests, which were joined Sunday by the like-minded Occupy Central movement, have sought to occupy government property and shut down the business district.

In an early morning video statement addressed to all Hong Kong residents, Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung called for people to leave. He said police have exercised the greatest possible restraint in dealing with the protesters. [Source]

The CNN crew was engulfed in tear gas while on the air:

James Pomfret and Yimou Lee of Reuters report on the protesters’ defiance as police use tear gas and batons against them:

Some protesters erected barricades to block security forces amid chaotic scenes still unfolding just hours before one of the world’s major financial centers was due to open for business. Many roads leading to the Central business district remained sealed off as thousands defied police calls to retreat.

Earlier, police baton-charged a crowd blocking a key road in the government district in defiance of official warnings that the demonstrations were illegal.

Several scuffles broke out between police in helmets, gas masks and riot gear, with demonstrators angered by the firing of tear gas, last used in Hong Kong in 2005.

“If today I don’t stand up, I will hate myself in future,” said taxi driver Edward Yeung, 55, as he swore at police on the frontline. “Even if I get a criminal record it will be a glorious one.” [Source]

While Occupy Central organizers initially planned a protest for October 1, China’s National Day, movement leader Benny Tai announced they would officially join the student protests on Sunday. Timmy Sung, Ernest Kao and Tony Cheung of South China Morning Post report:

“I’ve got a long-awaited message. Occupy Central will start now,” Tai declared to thousands gathered in Admiralty.

The first step of the movement was to occupy the government headquarters, he said: “Students and people who support democracy has begun a new era of civil disobedience.”

The news of the long-awaited protest sparked friction in some quarters, with some students simply packing up and going home, despite the fact the two movements share the same aims in urging Beijing to loosen its strict package of political reforms and give Hongkongers the power to elect their own chief executive. [Source]

Instagram has been blocked in China during the protests, and propaganda authorities have asked websites to clear all information about, “Hong Kong students violently assaulting the government.”

Read South China Morning Post’s Liveblog for more updates from Hong Kong. See also, “Hong Kong in Turmoil: 5 Takeaways from Weekend of Protests” by Zoher Abdoolcarim at Time.

Update: With thousands still in the streets near government headquarters in Admiralty Monday morning, crowds started to disperse somewhat as people returned to work. Citing the calmness of the crowds, the Hong Kong government withdrew riot police from the streets. Chris Buckley reports for the New York Times:

The government urged the protesting residents to end their street sit-ins so that life in this busy commercial city could return to normal.

​Despite the announcement, some police officers with riot shields and other crowd-control equipment remained near the protesters who were occupying a main road in the Admiralty area, home to the government’s offices and a focus of the demonstrators’ anger. About two dozen officers guarded a pedestrian overpass that provides access to the government buildings, and other officers were resting nearby. [Source]

While the protests were front page news on many newspapers around the world, they were largely absent from mainland Chinese reporting, China Media Project reports:

At present, it seems that outside this highly restricted coverage in the news pages we have only the same highly restricted coverage on news portal sites. If we found coverage on major news sites in China, we would expect it to be 1) the Xinhua release on the above-mentioned Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office statement, 2) information from the address given by Chief Executive C.Y. Leung at 1AM today or 3) shares of Global Times material.

As of mid-day, most major news sites had no prominently placed coverage at all. That includes the Xinhua News Agency website, People’s Daily Online, Sina.com (China), Sohu.com and QQ.com. However, when you select “news” on the home pages of the above-mentioned commercial sites, both Sina and QQ offer the Xinhua version of the already-very-outdated remarks made by Chief Executive C.Y. Leung yesterday, September 28. [Source]

A televised broadcast on Beijing-supported Phoenix Television went so far as to describe footage of the protests as “crowds gathering to celebrate China’s National Day and show support for general election plan,” opposition to which is actually a driving force behind the protests:

Drone footage posted by Apple Daily shows the scale of the protests:

Apple Daily’s Live Stream of protests:


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