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Hong Kong Protesters Clash with Police Outside Legislature


Masked pro-democracy protesters use a fence to try to break a glass window of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong early Nov. 19, 2014.
Masked pro-democracy protesters use a fence to try to break a glass window of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong early Nov. 19, 2014.

Police in Hong Kong clashed with protesters who tried to force their way into the territory's legislature early Wednesday.

Protesters used metal barricades to smash windows at the legislative council building. It is not clear how many people were able to enter the facility.

About 100 riot officers responded with pepper spray and batons. At least four protesters were arrested. Three police officers were injured in the clashes.

An activist who participated in the violence and only wanted to be identified as Chou told VOA the movement can no longer wait passively while authorities take action.

"Speaking to the escalation, what we believe is that only putting pressure on the [Hong Kong] government can we force them to respond to our aspirations of the real universal suffrage," said Chou.

Not everyone in the movement, however, agreed with the actions, and several pro-democracy lawmakers and protest leaders condemned the attempted break-in. Legislator and long-time activist Leung Kwok-hung says their behavior goes against the movement's ethos of non-violence.

"The idea of the movement pushes us to take our responsibilities as citizens in a peaceful way, but they clearly renounced that," he said. "What they’ve been doing has nothing to do with our movement, but goes against it."

"They are completely against the principle of fighting for genuine universal suffrage in the spirit of peace and non-violence," said Civic Party leader Alan Leong. "This has negative effects for the Umbrella Movement. We are heart-broken. We call upon all Hong Kong people who fight for true universal suffrage to not forget our original intentions."

But Lau Chak, a high school student who has participated in the Occupy movement, says there have always been some who have tried to radicalize the movement.

"Most of us were trying to stop them for their violent action," Lau said. "However, they actually gathered online, so we are also trying to differentiate them from us, because what they did was absolutely detrimental to our movement — they ruined our image."

Also Tuesday, a co-founder of the Occupy movement, Chan Kin Man, called on occupiers to concentrate at government headquarters and the Legislative Council. In doing so, Chan said protesters should try to reduce the interference on people's livelihoods and strive for additional public support in their quest to mount a long-term democratic movement.

Several protesters from occupied areas at Admiralty told VOA that while they respect his advice, he does not represent them.

“I think it has nothing to do with our decision upon whether to vacate or not," said a woman who only wanted to be identified by her family name, He.

The area was calm later Wednesday, although the government said in a statement that some activities at the parliament building have been canceled.

The incident was a departure from the usual peaceful behavior by the mainly student activists, who have occupied several areas for nearly two months.

Protest site cleared

On Tuesday, protesters stood by peacefully as authorities cleared part of a protest site occupied by demonstrators since late September.

Acting on a court order, bailiffs dismantled street barricades in a section of the Admiralty district near government headquarters. Some of the protesters had already moved their tents and other belongings to a nearby site that police have left alone.

Last week, a Hong Kong court ordered protesters to clear the area, as well as a site in the Mong Kok district across the harbor from Admiralty.

The demonstrators have been calling for fully democratic elections in 2017. They took to the streets after China ruled in August that all candidates for chief executive must first be approved by a committee that is stacked with pro-Beijing loyalists.

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