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Scuffles Erupt in Hong Kong as Hundreds Break Down Protest Barriers

  • Daniel Schearf

An anti-Occupy Central protester (L) holds pliers as he cuts cable ties at barricades setup as road blocks by protesters at Central in Hong Kong, October 13, 2014.

An anti-Occupy Central protester (L) holds pliers as he cuts cable ties at barricades setup as road blocks by protesters at Central in Hong Kong, October 13, 2014.

Hundreds of unidentified people, some wearing masks, tried to break down protest barriers in the heart of Hong Kong's business district on Monday, scuffling with protesters who have occupied the streets for the past two weeks.

Taxi drivers, opposed to the protests which have seriously affected their business, surrounded some barricades, as police tried to protect protesters and barricades.

Earlier Monday morning, Hong Kong police had began removing the barricades. At the main protest site, around government offices in the downtown district of Admiralty, dozens of student protesters faced off with police who were massing in the area, Reuters reported, quoting a witness to the events.

The Hong Kong government has said the demonstrations are illegal.

On Sunday, protest leaders vowed to continue their occupation of city streets after the Chinese territory's leader soundly rejected their demands. Hong Kong's chief executive also called their movement "out of control" and said it could not last very long.

Protesters Sunday voiced defiance after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said there was 'zero chance' of meeting their demands.

In an interview with TVB, Hong Kong's Beijing-approved leader said China would never rescind its decision against open nomination of candidates for the chief executive post.

Leung also dismissed protester demands that he resign for allegedly failing to uphold Hong Kong's constitution, the Basic Law.

Decision criticized

Lester Shum, deputy secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and a protest leader, said, “What C.Y. Leung, the chief executive, said, showed that the Hong Kong government still refuse to take the responsibility to face the political issue made by, or caused by, the Hong Kong government."

Hong Kong is to hold a much anticipated first direct election for chief executive in 2017 as part of the Chinese territory's unique "One Country, Two Systems" status.

But China's National People's Congress in August set out a plan that allows Beijing-leaning officials in Hong Kong to choose the candidates the public would be allowed to vote on.

The limitation on the former British colony's democracy sparked students to boycott classes and lead the occupation of city streets, now in its third week.

Talks canceled

The number of protesters had declined in recent days, but got a boost Friday night when thousands answered a call to rally at the main demonstration site next to government offices.

Authorities had canceled a dialogue on constitutional reform with protest leaders Friday after calls for a new wave of civil disobedience.

Despite the boost, Shum acknowledged they are struggling to maintain the momentum of the movement as it is challenged by those disturbed by the barricaded streets.

“Yeah, I believe this movement has come to face a very difficult problem," Shum said.

"It's that ... the government use every tactics to wish to delay our movement, to wish us to come home or give up our occupation. So, what we are going to do, or what we are facing is how we can convince the Hong Kong citizens and students to support us, to still support this occupation movement," he said.

Groups of people opposed to the occupation, including taxi and truck drivers, have demonstrated against it. There are also sporadic arguments and fights with protesters.

Protesters add tents

Nonetheless, demonstrators over the weekend added new tents to the streets around government offices in a show of defiance and determination to develop a genuine democracy.

The protest became known as the "umbrella revolution" after protesters used umbrellas to peacefully defend themselves against police tear gas and pepper spray.

People hung notes of support shaped like umbrellas to a large, wire sculpture of an umbrella and added post-it notes to those already plastered on a nearby wall.

Frankie Lam, who brought his two children to see the demonstration, said Hong Kong authorities should stop making excuses for not allowing them to directly elect their leaders.

“They can do it. Just whether they are willing to do so. So, I think, for now, the Hong Kong people will try to ... cooperate with each other, to try to fight ... (against) this unfair treatment," Lam said.

When asked whether he thinks the protesters will succeed, Lam replied, "I don't know. But, if you never ever try, you will never ever know. Just try our best to do something for our ... for the next generation.”

Lam's elementary school-aged son posted a note that read “Do Not Give Up” in Chinese characters.

Material from Reuters was used in this report.

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