Violence erupted in a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong on Sunday dubbed as “Occupy Central” as police tried to clear thousands of protesters in front of government headquarters using tear gas.
The New York Times reports that police also fired pepper spray and used their batons to fend off defiant residents but the streets remained filled with protesters. Several were reportedly hurt in both sides.
The demonstrators, who have camped out in the central city complex since Friday night, demand an election for Hong Kong’s leader in 2017 without Beijing’s interference. They also want the Communist Party to grant more democratic reforms to the former British colony.
Last month, Beijing ruled out open nominations for candidates for the first fully democratic elections for Hong Kong.
Benny Tai, one of the leaders of the protest, on Saturday called for civil disobedience and a blockade of the city’s financial district.
One of the protesters, 30-year old Cecily Lui, denounced the authorities’ violent dispersal of the peaceful mobilization.
“It was very cruel for the police to use such harsh violence on protesters who had been completely peaceful,” said Lui, a clerk.
[quote text_size=”small” author=”–Cecily Lui” author_title=”Hong Kong demonstrator”]
They were just sitting down on the road asking to speak with (Hong Kong leader) Leung Chun-ying to start a dialogue. Now, police have solved nothing and students are more resolved to stay,
After throwing tear gas, Hong Kong police told the protesters to “leave peacefully and orderly.”
“Otherwise police will use a higher level of force to restore public order and safeguard public safety,” it said in a statement.