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Hong Kong Police Remove Demonstrators

  • VOA News

Police in Hong Kong have begun removing protesters from a sit-in that followed a huge pro-Democracy rally.

Hundreds of police began to carry away protesters early Wednesday from the heart of Hong Kong's business district.

Police would not say how many people were arrested.

The confrontation followed a peaceful rally Tuesday in which tens of thousands of people took to the streets in a political protest on the 17th anniversary of the former British colony's return to Chinese governance.

Marchers spent the public holiday demanding reforms to reduce Beijing's direct influence in Hong Kong elections.

Carrying banners demanding "real democracy" and chanting slogans against Hong Kong's pro-Beijing leader, the crowd of mostly young people marched from Victoria Park to the city's central business district.

Police say just under 100,000 people took part. However, organizers placed the figure at more than 500,000.

Eight hundred thousand Hong Kongers had recently voted in an unofficial referendum meant to pressure China into allowing the territory to choose its own candidates for the 2017 election.

Beijing has promised to allow Hong Kongers to vote for their elected officials in 2017. But it has angered many by insisting that it will only allow candidates that are approved beforehand.

Mass protests have in the past convinced Beijing to alter its policies toward Hong Kong. In 2003, half a million people showed up for a pro-democracy protest, prompting China to scrap proposed anti-subversion laws.

But this time Communist Party leaders appear to be standing firm.

The party last month issued a White Paper emphasizing its "comprehensive jurisdiction" over Hong Kong, which it stressed did not enjoy "full autonomy." The paper prompted outrage and helped galvanize support for this week's protest.

Scott Harold, a Chinese foreign policy specialist with the RAND Corporation, tells VOA that Beijing's heavy-handed approach has not been helpful for resolving the crisis.

"China is finding that its approaches for dealing with Hong Kong — whether in terms of outright intimidation through the White Paper, or the appointment of pro-Beijing politicians, or even what is widely suspected to be a campaign of covert manipulation through replacement of critical media voices with more pliable media voices and leveraging a triad to deliver messages to those who don't get in line — are not succeeding in cowing the Hong Kong people," he said. "Instead, they've only incentivized them to stand up more by essentially revealing that the threat is real."

Hong Kong residents enjoy more civil and political rights than their counterparts on the mainland due to Beijing's agreement with Britain.

The Chinese state-run Global Times on Monday said the pro-democracy movement is divisive and called the unofficial referendum "farcical." It warned that political confrontation "will not bring about democracy, but will only shake the region's foundation for practicing democracy."

Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.

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