Clashes Erupt in Hong Kong Protests
Police make violent arrests as pro-democracy demonstrators occupy government square
Police in Hong Kong made violent arrests on Friday and Saturday as students and pro-democracy activists stormed a public square near the government's headquarters to protest China's rejection of free elections and universal suffrage earlier this month.
At least 60 activists were taken into custody throughout the night as another 100 refused to move from the area, Civic Square, and chanted at police to stop making arrests. Approximately 74 protesters were arrested overall throughout the weekend as the rally continued on into Saturday morning. As of 10:30pm in Hong Kong (10:30AM EST), some of the arrested students had returned to the site of the protests, although some of the leaders remained in custody.
One prominent member of the group, Joshua Wong, was among those arrested Friday night. He has reportedly been denied bail. Police have yet to confirm what his charges are.
"No fear for civil disobedience!" the protesters chanted.
The march was organized largely by the activist group Occupy Central with Peace and Love—a reference to Central, the region's business district—which has been instrumental in creating the pro-democracy movement that emerged after the Chinese government ruled that it would not allow free elections in its 2017 cycle. Protesters have held several rallies since that time, while at least 3,000 students involved in the organization have staged class boycotts and walkouts.
The arrests followed additional moves by riot police, including using pepper spray to dispel peaceful protesters and others who attempted to cross over barriers into the government buildings earlier Friday night. At least 29 people have been injured, police said.
"We strongly condemn such action which not only violates the police code of conduct but also tramples on people's freedom of expression," Occupy Central said.
More than 20 of the region's pan-democrat government leaders condemned the arrests and called on police to release the protesters immediately.
"Regarding the students’ action yesterday night, they only wanted to get inside Hong Kong people’s Civic Square," the 23 officials wrote in a statement read by Civic Party leader Alan Leong. "It was nothing violent. We urged the police to release all the arrested students, and open Civic Square. Give the public back the public space so they can gather and demonstrate."
Occupy Central has said it has many more acts of civil disobedience planned, including a shutdown of roads leading to the business district, which is set to take place on October 1.
Pro-democracy protests first erupted in Hong Kong on September 1 after a ruling by the Chinese government effectively destroyed the region's chance to hold a democratic election for its next leader.
The election, set for 2017, will be the first in which the Hong Kong chief executive is elected by voters. However, the ruling ensured that the process will be controlled by China's legislature and prevent a truly democratic election. Officials would allow only two or three candidates to enter and require them to gain endorsements from at least half of the members of a mostly pro-establishment nominating committee.
Protesters and journalists are live-tweeting the event here: