Hundreds of protesters scuffled with police yesterday after Hong Kong lawmakers approved a controversial US$8.6 billion express railway project.
Police used pepper spray on the protesters as they tried to break through a barricade surrounding the Legislative Council building, where lawmakers met for a third time to debate the project.
The activists were among thousands of people who surrounded the building to demand the project’s withdrawal.
After an eight-hour meeting, the council voted in favor of the project, which will link Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
Officials say the project is important for fostering economic ties between Hong Kong and major cities on the Chinese mainland and hope construction will be completed by around 2015.
“The project has been through a 10-year consultation ... It is an important investment,” Hong Kong Transport Secretary Eva Cheng (鄭汝樺) said after the meeting.
Pro-democracy legislators tried to delay the decision, saying the public had not been properly consulted and that the scheme was overpriced. They also said it would only benefit developers, while forcing villagers along the route to relocate.
On Friday, more than 1,000 protesters staged a sit-in outside the residence of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Donald Tsang (曾蔭權) to urge authorities to drop the project.