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Hong Kong Activists Clash With Police, Retake Protest Site

Pro-democracy protesters set up new barricades after riot police retreated from a main road at Mong Kok shopping district in Hong Kong early Saturday.
Pro-democracy protesters set up new barricades after riot police retreated from a main road at Mong Kok shopping district in Hong Kong early Saturday.

Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have retaken parts of a protest camp that authorities had cleared on Friday after scuffles with police clad in riot gear that left dozens of people injured.

The BBC says: "Activists clashed with police, as about 9,000 protesters re-occupied the area. At least 26 people have been arrested."

The South China Morning Post reports that the protesters today formed new barricades and set up other obstacles in the congested Mong Kok district of Kowloon, on the peninsular portion of the territory. Mong Kok is one of three major Hong Kong protest sites.

Hong Kong Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung broke his long silence on the protests, calling them "unlawful assembly" and accusing demonstrators of charging police cordons and occupying major thoroughfares in Mong Kok, according to the SCMP.

"Such behaviours are neither peaceful nor non-violent," Tsang, who last made a public statement when the civil disobedience movement started, was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

"The police have been extremely tolerant of the unlawful acts of the demonstrators in the past two to three weeks. We did this in the hope that they can calm down and express their views in an otherwise peaceful, rational and lawful manner. Unfortunately these protesters chose to carry on with their unlawful acts ... which are even more radical or violent," he said.

The protesters have called for the immediate resignation of unpopular Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung and for open elections in 2017 to determine his ultimate replacement. When Hong Kong, a long-time British colony, was handed back to China in 1997, Beijing had agreed to universal suffrage for the territory's leader 20 years hence. However, China announced earlier this year that it would hand-pick the candidates, angering many Hong Kongers.

The protests in Hong Kong have sparked unpleasant memories of China's Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 in which a huge pro-democracy demonstration was crushed by Beijing, killing hundreds of protesters.

The Hong Kong government announced on Thursday that it would meet with student activists to try to resolve differences, but Leung has also signaled that no deal could come without Beijing's approval, and that it was impossible that Chinese authorities would relent on the election of the territory's leader.

Hong Kong's No. 2, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, said today that the government would meet with protest leaders on Tuesday.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman
Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.