HONG KONG —
With the sounds of electric clippers mixing with a cello playing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", Hong Kong pro-democracy activists shaved their heads to protest China's new election rules for the former British colony.
The leaders of the territory's Occupy Central Movement, which has vowed to stage mass rallies in the territory's central business district soon, led about 40 supporters in cutting off their hair Tuesday.
Occupy co-founder Benny Tai said the symbolic protest was meant to show their commitment to the cause.
“From the very beginning we said that our occupy actions means to signal the word how determined we are," said Tai. "We occupy some important streets in order to be arrested by police to express we are not afraid of sacrifice and willing to give up freedom to fight for the democratic universal suffrage.”
Tanya Chan wears a yellow ribbon to show support for full democratic elections in Hong Kong, Sept. 9, 2014. (Iris Tong / VOA Cantonese)
Former Civic Party legislator Tanya Chan was one of the few women to participate in the head shaving.
“People joke with me, asking me if I shaved my hair because I am getting left [unmarried] or because there is no real universal suffrage," said Chan. "The answer is simple. Since sham marriages are illegal, how can we accept a fake election?”
The protest Tuesday was marred by a brief scuffle between pro-democracy supporters and pro-Beijing activists. Reuters reports one demonstrator was taken to the hospital following the altercation.
Last week, China ruled that prospective candidates for Hong Kong chief executive first be approved by a nominating committee that is likely to be stacked by pro-Beijing representatives.
Occupy Central co-organizer Chan Kin Man says the decision from Beijing marks a beginning for activists.
“NPC standing committee closing the [door] will be the start of disobedience era," he said. "We know what the most important task is at this moment. It is to strength our civil society, protect our core values, and maintain the existing freedoms rights.”
Occupy Central organizers responded by saying it would stage mass rallies to shut down Hong Kong's central financial district. But they have not yet given a date for the action.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Cantonese service.