Hong Kong police fired volleys of tear gas to disperse pro-democracy protests on Sunday and baton-charged a crowd blocking a key road in the government district in defiance of official warnings against illegal demonstrations.
Protesters had gathered at government headquarters in a challenge to Beijing over its decision to restrict democratic reforms for the semiautonomous city.
After spending hours holding the protesters at bay, police lobbed canisters of tear gas into the crowd. The searing fumes sent demonstrators fleeing down the road, but many came right back.The protesters were trying to join a sit-in outside government headquarters calling for Beijing to grant genuine democratic reforms to the former British colony.
The sit-in, however, became overshadowed by running confrontations on the surrounding streets between police and those who were blocked from entering the protest zone. Students and activists have been camped out since late Friday on the streets.
Communist Party leaders in Beijing are said to be terrified of calls for democracy spreading to cities on the mainland, threatening their grip on power.
Dissent as seen in Hong Kong would never be allowed on the mainland, where student protests calling for democracy were crushed with heavy loss of life on and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
Meanwhile, China’s government said it is confident Hong Kong authorities can handle demonstrations in line with the law.