The pro-democracy march on Tuesday, which organisers said
attracted more than 510,000 people, and a subsequent sit-in by
mainly student groups could be the biggest challenge yet to China
which resumed control over the former British colony on July 1,
Many of the more than 1,000 protesters linked arms in a bid to
resist efforts to remove them but they were taken away one at a
time, in some cases by three or four police, as activists kicked,
screamed and punched before being bundled on to buses.
"I have the right to protest. We don't need police permission," the
crowd chanted as they sat sweltering in Hong Kong's summer heat and
Some remained defiant even after their arrest.
"Civil disobedience is not a one-time matter. I will come out to
protest again, because it is the only way Hong Kong can change,"
said To Chun Ho, who was released on Wednesday without charge.
Activists who refused to leave were taken in buses to the police
training school in Hong Kong. More than 500 people were arrested,
with some charged with participating in an unauthorised assembly and
It was unclear how long they would be detained. About 50 were
released without charge.
"Our purpose is first universal suffrage and second to let the
government respond to Hong Kong citizens' voice for democracy," said
Frank Chio, a representative of the Hong Kong Federation of
Students. "This is only step one. There will be other steps."
While minor scuffles broke out between police and activists, the
stand-off ended peacefully despite earlier fears of violence.
Retired mainland officials had earlier warned that the local
garrison of the People's Liberation Army might be needed to restore
order in an increasingly restive Hong Kong, but there was no
suggestion they were needed this week as police threw 4,000 staff at
WEAPON OF LAST RESORT
In one of the first moves of what is expected to be a hot political
summer, the demonstrators were demanding greater democracy in
elections for Hong Kong's leader, or chief executive, in 2017.
They want nominations to be open to everyone. China's leaders want
to ensure only pro-Beijing candidates are on the ballot.
Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997 with wide-ranging
autonomy under an agreed formula of "one country, two systems",
allowing protests such as Tuesday's march to take place.
But China bristles at open dissent, especially over sensitive
matters such as demands for universal suffrage and the annual June 4
vigil in Hong Kong to mark the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters
in Beijing in 1989.
Such protests, even by one or two people, would be met by stern
punishment elsewhere in China.
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Anson Chan, the former head of Hong Kong's civil service who served
both before and after the handover, urged Britain to push China
harder to meet its promises to Hong Kong.
"I would like Britain to speak up and say hey, we are noticing what
is happening, you cannot treat Hong Kong like this, you cannot walk
away from your commitments," she told Reuters on Wednesday.
"And if you want to see stability and good governance in Hong Kong,
we have to have a chief executive who has legitimacy."
Occupy Central with Love and Peace, the group behind an unofficial
referendum on democracy which drew nearly 800,000 votes, has
threatened to lock down Central as part of its campaign.
"The voice of the Hong Kong people has been loud and so clear. If
they (Beijing and the Hong Kong government) choose to ignore it,
they will have to pay the price," said Helena Wong of the Democratic
"Occupy Central is the last resort ... We will keep it as our last
weapon if we do not have true democracy."
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday his
government would do its "utmost" to move towards universal suffrage
and stressed the need for stability. Beijing's Liaison Office in
Hong Kong said China "firmly supported" universal suffrage for Hong
Kong, and "its sincerity and determination is unswerving".
The overnight protest threatened to disrupt traffic as people
returned to work following a public holiday on Tuesday to mark the
17th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China.
Some buildings in Central, including HSBC's headquarters, were
ringed by barriers, although these were largely cleared as business
(Additional reporting by Nikke Sun; James Zhang; Emily Chung; Farah
Master and Adam Rose; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by
Nick Macfie and Jeremy Laurence)
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