An anti-WTO march that began in a festive atmosphere turned hostile Tuesday as the protesters reached their designated demonstration area. Activists had earlier said they wanted to derail the trade talks being held this week.
Protesters shout as they scuffle with police at a demonstration site close to Hong Kong's Convention Center. Hong Kong police, who have prepared for months for this week's World Trade Organization convention, faced down the several dozen militant demonstrators with plastic shields and pepper spray.
What began as a peaceful march through the streets of Hong Kong turned hostile late Tuesday afternoon. Several dozen activists put on orange life vests and jumped into Hong Kong's harbor to dramatize their grievances against the WTO.
The protesters in the water appeared to be South Korean farmers, who are known for their militant protests against the liberalization of the rice trade in their country. One man swam up to a row of police boats and defiantly waved a South Korean flag at them.
Several dozen other protesters scuffled with police, who formed a line and sprayed pepper foam at the demonstrators over the tops of their plastic shields.
A Hong Kong legislator, Leung Kwok-hung, had joined the protesters and received pepper spray in his eyes.
The scuffles took place about half a kilometer from the Convention Center, where thousands of trade negotiators are meeting throughout the week to hammer out agreements on the liberalization of world trade. For most of the day, the activists had conducted peaceful demonstrations and other events to protest trade liberalization.
Hong Kong activists stage on a musical performance. Most of the protest groups were from Asia, representing farmers, fishers, workers, migrants and others who explained how the liberalization of trade negatively affects their lives.
"We believe that this WTO is not properly organized, they are not protecting the interests of the Third World countries," said one female protestor.
"Fishermen cannot be marginalized with the rules and regulations of the WTO. If these things happen then fishermen will die," added a male protestor.
Earlier in the day, fishermen from different Asian countries staged a protest on boats in the harbor in front of the Convention Center. Several of them also jumped into the water, but their protest ended peacefully.
Protests have become a regular feature of WTO conferences, and in several cases, serious violence has broken out.