Hong Kong protests: Scuffles break out at Admiralty camp
Opponents of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong have tried to dismantle one of the main protest camps, leading to scuffles with police and activists.
On Monday morning hundreds of people, some wearing surgical masks, rushed the barricades set up by protesters.
Police formed cordons to separate the two sides.
The unrest came a few hours after police had dismantled some barricades at protest sites in an operation to reduce traffic congestion.
The demonstrators - a mixture of student groups and the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement - are demanding that the people of Hong Kong be given full voting rights in the next leadership election in 2017.
China wants control over the list of candidates who can stand in that election.
On Sunday, Hong Kong's Chief Executive CY Leung said the chances of China changing its mind over the elections were "almost zero".
In a TV interview, he said the protests had "spun out of control" and did not rule out the use of force to end them.'Can't take it'
Early on Monday, police moved in to remove barricades in the Admiralty area near government headquarters.
They said the operation was to improve traffic in the area, and that they did not plan to clear the camp entirely.
The operation was largely peaceful though some of the protesters accused police of failing to communicate properly or trying to force them to abandon the site.
"The police just want to trick us again. We won't move and I'm ready to get arrested," Cherry Yuen told AFP news agency.
Hours later, large numbers of people opposed to the protests converged on the area chanting "open the roads" and slogans in support of the police.
"Hongkongers hate you all," South China Morning Post quoted them as saying.
Among them were taxi drivers, many of them angry about loss of income due to the blocked off roads. They arrived at the Admiralty protest site in their cars shouting and beeping horns.
A few had signs on the front of their cars saying: "We can't take it any more."
Some people started dismantling the tents put up by protestors and dragging them away. At least one lorry with a crane was seen removing barricades and television footage appeared to show a masked man being forced to drop a small knife.
One student protester told Reuters that some of the anti-Occupy group "look like gangsters".
"They start running toward them [protesters] and then one of them hit an old man with something hard, hit his head, so he's injured over there right now," she told Reuters.
Occupy Central later put out a statement saying such violence "would merely deepen the social contradictions and destroy Hong Kong's reputation and tradition of non-violent struggle in Hong Kong".
Earlier this month, peaceful demonstrators at another rally site in Mong Kok, on the Kowloon peninsula, also came under attack. Police have said they believe some of those attackers were members of the Triad criminal gang.
The protesters have been occupying key areas for more than two weeks.
At the start of the movement the rallies drew tens of thousands of people, and hundreds were sleeping on the streets overnight. However, numbers have reduced in recent days to just a few hundred, mostly students.
The students were scheduled to have talks with government officials on Friday evening. But on Thursday, Hong Kong's deputy leader, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, said their continuing calls for street protests had made it "impossible to have a constructive dialogue" and cancelled the talks.Hong Kong democracy timeline
- 1997: UK gives Hong Kong back to China under a 1984 agreement giving it "a high degree of autonomy" for 50 years
- 2004: China says it must approve any changes to Hong Kong's election laws
- June-July 2014: Pro-democracy activists hold an unofficial referendum on political reform. Both sides hold large rallies
- 31 August 2014: China says it will allow direct elections in 2017 but will pre-approve candidates
- 22 September 2014: Student groups launch a week-long boycott of classes
- 28 September 2014: Occupy Central and student protests join forces and take over central Hong Kong
- 2017: Direct elections for chief executive due to take place