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Hong Kong Pro-democracy Protesters, Police Clash

  • VOA News

Minor scuffles broke out Thursday between Hong Kong police and protesters who have been camped out for over a month to demand democratic reforms.

Video footage posted on YouTube showed dozens of police, some wielding batons and shields, fighting with protesters in the Mong Kok neighborhood.

Many protesters were holding umbrellas, which have become a symbol of resistance after the activists used them to protect themselves against police tear gas.

Others were wearing smiling Guy Fawkes masks made popular in the 2005 Hollywood film V for Vendetta. Fawkes, who plotted to kill a British king in 1605, has become a symbol of anti-capitalist protests.

"We, the people, have completely no say in the policies that the government is trying to hard-sell us. We are unable to be the master in our own house. The government controls us. So today we have to stand up and fight for real universal suffrage. We want to choose our own leader," said one unidentified protester.

There were no reports of injuries or arrests during the scuffle.

2017 elections

The protesters want Beijing to allow open nominations in the 2017 election for Hong Kong's top leadership position. In August, China ruled that any candidate must first be approved by a committee that is stacked with Beijing loyalists.

Beijing has said it will not reverse its decision. It has declared the protests to be illegal.

The protests at one point drew up to 100,000 people. But they have been steadily shrinking, leaving organizers scrambling to find a way to rejuvenate the movement.

On Thursday, Hong Kong Federation of Students' (HKFS) leader Alex Chow said the protesters were seeking a respected intermediary to arrange a trip to Beijing, where the students want to make their case to China's leaders for greater democracy.

Protesters are frustrated with the city government's inability to negotiate and are hoping to send a delegation to Beijing.

“To make the conversation become a reality we need to find a 'middleman,' such as Tung Chee-hwa or Rita Fan, who can make the arrangements and make the trip workable,” Chow told reporters.

Tung is a former Hong Kong chief executive while Fan is a former president of the city's legislative assembly and a delegate to China's largely rubber-stamp parliament.

'Visit to Beijing is needed'

Chow said the city government was incapable of resolving the standoff over the protesters' demands for greater democracy and only Beijing could do so.

“That is why we think a visit to Beijing is needed,” he said. Chow did not say who would be part of the students' delegation or when it might go.

Protest leaders had also recently said they were considering taking their protest directly to Chinese leaders in Beijing during next week's meeting of world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

However, it is unclear whether the organizers would be allowed to pass border control to attend such a protest.

While their numbers have been dwindling, pro-democracy activists said they plan to march on Sunday from the heart of the city's financial center to the Chinese central government's liaison office in Hong Kong.

William Gallo contributed to this report. Some material for this report came from Reuters.

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