Hong Kong Arrests Protesters, Warn Students 'Do Not Return' to Streets

( [email protected] ) Dec 01, 2014 04:45 PM EST
Hong Kong
A pro-democracy protester is arrested by police officers outside government headquarters in Hong Kong on Sunday. (Kim Cheung/AP)

Hong Kong's chief executive has warned protesters not to return to the streets after clashes between police and pro-Democracy protestors forced the temporary closure of government headquarters.

Reuters reports that the clashes occurred Monday in central Hong Kong after hundreds of demonstrators stormed past police lines in an attempt to occupy main roads in the Admiralty district.

Hundreds of riot police--armed with pepper spray and batons--responded, seriously injuring several protesters and arresting at least 18. The riots forced government headquarters to shut down for several hours, reports Fox News.

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying has said police had previously been tolerant but warned that they would now take "resolute action."

"Some people have mistaken the police's tolerance for weakness," Leung told reporters. "I call for students who are planning to return to the occupation sites tonight not to do so."

The clashes came after a week in which the pro-democracy movement lost its street camp in the Mong Kok neighborhood--a location it has held since September. At the time, police attempts to disperse protesters backfired and thousands of protesters surged into the streets, infuriated at the police's use of batons, pepper spray and tear gas.

"The action was aimed at paralyzing the government's operation," said Alex Chow, secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the movement's key organizers. "The government has been stalling ... and we believe we need to focus pressure on the government headquarters, the symbol of the government's power."

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to mainland Chinese control in 1997, promising a high level of autonomy. The protests began September after the government insisted on using a pro-Beijing panel to screen candidates for the 2017 election.

Although over 200,000 people participated in the start of the protests, numbers have dwindled rapidly over the past two months as the Hong Kong government's strategy of waiting out the demonstrations has left protesters with few options.

However, speaking on a stage at the Admiralty protest site next to government headquarters, student leader Joshua Wong stated that he and two others, including a secondary school student, will begin a hunger strike to pressure Beijing to budge on electoral reforms and grant greater democracy.

"Today, we have decided to do this because we feel have no other road to take," said the 18 year old, adding that protestors "will refuse" to back down.

Thus far, Beijing has backed out of any kind of negotiations despite promising to meet with pro-democracy student leaders in September. The government has said it is "not ready" to discuss demands for democracy and insists that "illegal" occupation of the streets must end before negotiations could begin.

In addition, a British legislative committee has been warned by the Chinese Embassy in London that its members would be refused entry into Hong Kong if they proceed with an inquiry into the city's relations with the U.K.

Richard Ottaway, chairman of Parliament's committee on foreign affairs, said the Chinese authorities were acting in an "overtly confrontational manner," and has promised to seek an emergency parliamentary debate Monday on the development.