About 1,000 counter-protesters who support Chinese rule stormed a pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong's Mongkok district on Friday, ripping down banners and starting violent scuffles with about 100 activists who had staged a sit-in in the highly populated district.
The counter-protesters spit and threw water bottles at the pro-democracy activists until police formed a human chain between the two groups to settle the clashes. The Beijing supporters shouted at police for failing to remove the other activists, some of whom held umbrellas for the officers as rain started to fall. As word of the clashes spread, more pro-democracy activists arrived to the camp. Three ambulances were called to the scene to attend to injured people.
"I am a little bit scared. I haven't seen anything like this before," a protester told CNN after the standoff. "We'll do our best to stay calm here, do what we can."
The area's Superintendent Mok Hing-wing told reporters at a press conference that police will begin dismantling barriers and ordering protesters to disperse; anyone who remains at the site will be arrested, he warned.
But organizers responded with their own ultimatum, promising to remain vigil in their sit-in and other actions. In a statement addressed to authorities, organizers from Occupy Central, the Hong Kong Federation Of Students, and Scholarism said, "If the government does not immediately prevent the organized attacks on supporters of the Occupy movement, the students will call off dialogue on political reform with the government."
South China Morning Post reported that anti-Occupy sentiments are rising in the region, as residents and business owners fed up with the large crowds blocking traffic and slowing down business also clashed with protesters holding out in Causeway Bay and Admiralty as well as Mongkok.
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In Causeway Bay, a group of about 30 men wearing masks stormed another, larger camp and began removing barricades there, although they left the scene after officers formed another human blockade to separate the men from the activists, who were joined by another influx of demonstrators after news of the clashes spread on social media.
Alex Chow, Secretary General of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said the violence was caused by people "with the intention to cause chaos to allow police to clear activists there."
"All supporters of Occupy will abide by the principles of nonviolence," he said. "The chaos is not caused by advocates of Occupy, but by the opposing groups."
The protests began last month after the Chinese government reneged on a promise to allow universal suffrage in Hong Kong's next election for their government representative. Breaking their vow to grant full democratic elections, Beijing instead said it would limit voters' choice for representative to a small pool of candidates that has first been vetted by a pro-establishment committee.
Follow the ongoing demonstrations under the hashtag #OccupyCentral here.