Hong Kong: Thousands of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists forced the temporary closure of government headquarters on Monday after clashing with police, defying orders to retreat after more than two months of sustained protests in the Chinese-controlled city. Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said police had been tolerant but would now take “resolute action”, suggesting that patience may have finally run out.
In the heart of the Admiralty protest site next to government headquarters, chaos erupted as commuters made their way to work, with hundreds of protesters surrounding the area which houses offices and retail outlets, in a stand-off with police. The central government offices and the legislature were forced to close in the morning, as were scores of shops.
The latest flare-up, during which police charged protesters with batons and pepper spray, showed the frustration of protesters at Beijing’s refusal to budge on electoral reforms and grant greater democracy to Hong Kong.
“Some people have mistaken the police’s tolerance for weakness,” Leung said, adding, “I call for students who are planning to return to the occupation sites not to do so.” Hong Kong Federation of Students leader Alex Chow said the protesters had intended to paralyse government headquarters.
Hundreds of riot police scattered the crowds in several rounds of heated clashes overnight, forcing protesters back with pepper spray and batons. Scores of volunteer medics attended to numerous injured, some of whom lay unconscious and others with blood streaming from head gashes. Police said at least 40 arrests were made.
The unrest took place as British lawmakers said they had been told by the Chinese Embassy they would not be allowed to enter Hong Kong as part of an inquiry into Britain’s relations with its former colony and progress towards democracy.