Kong warns protesters not to return after clashes close government HQ
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[December 01, 2014]
By Clare Baldwin and James Pomfret
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Thousands of Hong
Kong pro-democracy activists forced the temporary closure of government
headquarters on Monday after clashing with police, defying orders to
retreat after more than two months of sustained protests in the
Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said police had been tolerant but
would now take "resolute action", suggesting that patience may have
finally run out.
Chaos erupted as commuters made their way to work, with hundreds of
student-led protesters surrounding Admiralty Centre, which houses
offices and retail outlets, in a stand-off with police. The central
government offices and the legislature were forced to close in the
morning, as were scores of shops.
The latest flare-up, during which police charged protesters with
batons and pepper spray, underscored the frustration of protesters
at Beijing's refusal to budge on electoral reforms and grant greater
democracy to the former British colony.
"Some people have mistaken the police's tolerance for weakness,"
Leung told reporters. "I call for students who are planning to
return to the occupation sites tonight not to do so."
He did not respond when asked if police would clear the sites on
Hong Kong Federation of Students leader Alex Chow said the
protesters had intended to paralyze government headquarters.
"The plan was a failure on the whole, given that even if some places
were occupied, they were cleared by the police immediately," Chow
The democracy movement represents one of the biggest threats for
China's Communist Party leadership since Beijing's bloody 1989
crackdown on pro-democracy student protests in and around Tiananmen
Financial Secretary John Tsang said the protests had damaged Hong
Kong's international image and hurt investor confidence, adding the
city's economic growth could be lower than the government's forecast
of 2.2 percent. The territory also reported a slowdown in monthly
Hundreds of riot police scattered the crowds in several rounds of
heated clashes overnight, forcing protesters back with pepper spray
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Scores of volunteer medics attended to numerous injured, some who
lay unconscious and others with blood streaming from head gashes.
Police said at least 40 arrests were made.
The unrest came as British lawmakers said they had been told by the
Chinese Embassy they would not be allowed to enter Hong Kong as part
of an inquiry into Britain's relations with its former colony and
progress toward democracy.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two
systems" formula that gave it some autonomy from the mainland and an
undated promise of universal suffrage.
The protesters are demanding free elections for the city's next
leader in 2017 rather than the vote between pre-screened candidates
that Beijing has said it would allow.
The Hong Kong rallies drew more than 100,000 on to the streets at
their peak. Numbers have since dwindled and public support for the
movement has waned.
(Additional reporting by Diana Chan, Kinling Lo, Clare Jim, Michelle
Chen and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree
and Nick Macfie)
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