Hong Kong protests: Mong Kok camp retaken from police

  • 18 October 2014
  • From the section China
Media captionScuffles broke out between protesters and police

Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong have retaken streets in the Mong Kok district, just hours after they were cleared by the authorities.

There were tense scenes in Mong Kok early on Saturday as protesters pushed against police lines, and officers used batons against the activists.

Violent clashes had erupted on Friday as about 9,000 protesters re-occupied the area, with 26 people arrested.

Demonstrators have been occupying parts of the city for three weeks.

They are angered at China's curbs on who can stand in the next leadership election in 2017.

On Saturday evening, police and pro-democracy protesters again clashed in Mong Kok.

Police charged at protesters massed behind barriers, sparking scuffles and causing minor injuries on both sides.

Some reports suggested police charged after the demonstrators had breached their barriers. Protesters on social media said it was an unprovoked attack.

The government and students are due to hold talks on Tuesday.

Hong Kong Chief Secretary Carrie Lam said both sides would send five representatives to the negotiations, which will be broadcast live on television.

The talks were announced after clashes on Friday night injured dozens of people, including at least 15 police officers.

'Bargaining chip'

Protest group Occupy Central issued a statement (in Chinese) saying that government attempts to clear the protest sites had "triggered a new wave of occupations and worsened relations between police and citizens".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Protesters built more barricades after re-occupying Argyle street in Mong Kok

Police Commissioner Andy Tsang said the protests were illegal and were "undermining the rule of law".

However, demonstrators remained adamant that they would not leave the protest sites until the talks are held.

Protester Eddie Suen told the BBC: "That is the only thing we can do... the students obviously do not carry any weapons, they don't have any bargaining chips, except the [protests]."

The Mong Kok camp in Kowloon is an offshoot of the original protest site around government offices in Admiralty on Hong Kong Island.

Protesters and police have also been facing off in Admiralty district, although there are no reports of clashes.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some protesters remained at Admiralty district in Hong Kong
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many residents and businesses are opposed to the protests

Tuesday's talks will last about two hours, and be focused on constitutional reform, Ms Lam said.

However, Beijing is refusing the students' demands for civic nomination, making it difficult to see how the Hong Kong government can offer anything substantive at the bargaining table, the BBC's Celia Hatton in Hong Kong reports.

The Hong Kong government had previously called off planned talks, saying they were impossible while the occupation of city streets continued.

On Thursday, Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung said he was ready for dialogue, but reiterated that China would not retract its decision to vet candidates for the 2017 elections.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mong Kok woke on Saturday to the sight of protesters resting in the streets
Media captionThe government confirms talks with students on Tuesday despite protesters retaking Mong Kok

Protester numbers have dropped off since the start of the month, when tens of thousands were on the streets.

But tensions escalated this week, with violent clashes as police cleared an underpass on Lung Wo Road near the chief executive's offices.

A video showing plainclothes police officers beating an unarmed protester, who is a member of the pro-democracy Civic Party, also sparked outrage.

Police said seven officers had been suspended pending an investigation.

At the scene: Celia Hatton, BBC News, Hong Kong

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Protesters used umbrellas as shields against the police's pepper spray

On Friday evening, it was a battle between protesters' umbrellas and police batons in Mong Kok, the territory's second-largest protest site.

On Saturday, an uneasy peace returned to the area. Families could be seen strolling through the protest site, taking photos of sleeping students.

However, serious disagreements remain. The police insist they're trying to remove barricades, not the people, at the protest sites, but few accept that argument. Protesters are facing down the police every night because they believe that by expanding and protecting their geographical space, they're also expanding the amount of political influence they hold.

Soon, that theory will be put to the test. Student representatives are expected to sit down with Hong Kong's leaders next week.

The authorities are expected to try to convince the students to end their political rallies and return to their regular studies, though at the protest sites, many are settling in for the long haul.

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