HONG KONG (AP) — Pro-democracy protesters clashed with police Monday as they tried to surround Hong Kong government headquarters to revitalize their flagging movement for democratic reforms after camping out on the city’s streets for more than two months.
Repeating scenes that have become familiar since the movement began in late September, protesters carrying umbrellas — which have become symbols of the pro-democracy movement — battled police armed with pepper spray, batons and riot shields.
After student leaders told a big crowd rallying Sunday evening at the main protest site outside government headquarters that they would escalate their campaign, hundreds of protesters pushed past police lines on the other side of the complex from the protest site. They blocked traffic on a main road, but were stopped by police barricades from going down a side road to Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying’s office.
The protesters, many wearing surgical masks, hard hats and safety goggles and chanting, “I want true democracy,” said they wanted to occupy the road to prevent Leung and other government officials from getting to work in the morning.
At one point, police charged the crowd, aggressively pushing demonstrators back with pepper spray and batons, after some protesters started pelting them with water bottles and other objects. Police later fell back, letting demonstrators re-occupy the road. At dawn, police charged again and cleared the protesters from some areas around the government headquarters.
Police Senior Superintendent Tsui Wai-hung said 40 protesters had been arrested, adding that authorities would not let the road, a major thoroughfare, remain blocked.
“We will open up this road,” Tsui told reporters.
A government statement said 11 police had been injured but didn’t give a total injury count.
“The government spokesman reiterated that society would not accept the illegal acts of violent radicals who repeatedly pushed police officers and charged their cordon lines during scuffles,” the statement read.
Protesters said they were taking action to force a response from Hong Kong’s government, which has made little effort to address their demands that it scrap a plan by China’s Communist leaders to use a panel of Beijing-friendly elites to screen candidates for Hong Kong’s leader in inaugural 2017 elections.