Violence between authorities and protesters has continued to rise in Hong Kong city, with police forces now using tear-gas against pro-democracy demonstrators. The protest, which began earlier this week, surrounded government buildings in Hong Kong and led to a stand-off between civilians and law enforcement until it suddenly escalated on Sunday.
In response to actions deemed illegal by the Beijing Government, police forces fired tear-gas in an attempt to disperse the growing crowd. Pepper spray was also used and some officers even resorted to batons to try to break up the protest, which had blocked a road and was threatening to spiral out of control. However, nearby streets were still filled with thousands, even as others were forced to flee when officers launched gas canisters into the crowd.
The protest comes in response to Beijing’s refusal to allow open elections in Hong Kong. A proposed change in law will allow the city its first ever election process in 2017, but the Chinese government’s insistence on a “screening process” for potential candidates has sparked uproar, especially among Hong Kong’s large student body.
Although police forces have now had to resort to using tear gas against the protesters, the demonstration began peacefully, with only a relatively small number of students making their presence known outside the government headquarters three days ago. Law enforcement originally did very little to halt the protest as students scaled a fence in order to make their peaceful demonstration on government property.
Tensions began to rise yesterday as the students inside government grounds were detained by police. Thousands of new protesters gathered in the streets outside in an attempt to reach the student body but were prevented by riot shields and metal barricades. This led to several clashes as members of the crowd attempted to tear apart a barricade to get further inside.
Protesters came prepared to make a stand against law enforcement, with many wielding umbrellas to deflect pepper spray. Others wore face masks, goggles and ponchos as they confronted police, who showed little hesitation in using the spray to try to control the crowd.
The use of tear-gas was authorized by Beijing Government officials after the leaders of the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong began to encourage its members to join the protest and the crowd grew into the thousands. The Occupy Central movement, which fully supports the student-run demonstration, has often made its presence known in Hong Kong’s central business district in an attempt to speak out against China’s refusal to grant the city democracy. The group had originally intended to hold pro-democracy demonstrations this coming week but changed its plans when the student protests began.
Even after the use of tear-gas, protesters still filled nearby streets in the central district of the city. Their presence has created a dilemma for the city’s government, which may risk igniting further protests and encouraging support for the demonstrators if it acts with a heavy hand.
Though there are many in Hong Kong who agree with China’s control of the city, sympathy for the student-organised protest has begun to grow. The use of tear-gas against protesters by police has since been condemned by many Hong Kong residents, who say that there was no need to use force against a peaceful demonstration.
By Mathew Channer