Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters accused police of using excessive force against them after violent clashes yesterday, as a senior politician said weeks of rallies have reached a “critical moment.”
Dozens of police equipped with riot gear pushed into a crowd of angry demonstrators in the Mong Kok district early yesterday, striking at them repeatedly with batons.
Twenty people were injured in a fourth night of clashes between protesters demanding free elections for the semi-autonomous territory and police trying to restore traffic to the major Mong Kok thoroughfare that the demonstrators have brought to a standstill.
The spike in violence comes after three weeks of largely peaceful pro-democracy rallies and road blockades that paralyzed key parts of the Asian financial hub.
At a press conference at the Mong Kok camp yesterday, organizers blasted police for a response that left protesters with head wounds, fractures and bruises, with others carried away on stretchers.
Police said in a statement they used “minimum force” as protesters “suddenly attempted to charge” their cordon lines.
Talks between student protest leaders and government officials are still set to go ahead tomorrow, but with little common ground between the two sides, there are slim hopes of a breakthrough.
China insists that candidates for the 2017 vote for Hong Kong’s leader must be approved by a pro-Beijing committee — a condition protesters decry as “fake democracy.”
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) has warned that Beijing authorities have no intention of backing down.
Hong Kong Secretary of Finance John Tsang (曾俊華) yesterday urged demonstrators to retreat.
“I was young before and I have taken part in various student movements,” he wrote on his blog. “Retreating is not an easy decision. It takes a lot of bravery. I still believe that you can take the courage to make right decisions at this critical moment.”
Protest leaders told the crowds in Mong Kok that a three-day “cooling off period” could help lower simmering tensions between police and demonstrators.
“Those who are sick and tired, please go home for 72 hours to have a cooling-off period,” said Ed Chin (錢志健) of Occupy Central, one of the main protest organizers.
Christian pastor Fung Chi-wood (馮智活) said that the police, for their part, should pledge a lighter-handed approach.
Some protesters at Mong Kok wore hard hats and makeshift protective gear fashioned out of household items. Posters stuck up around the camp read: “Calm down. Don’t forget our original purpose.”
The government information service said 20 people involved in protest activities had been injured between 10pm and 6am overnight from Saturday to yesterday, but would not specify how many were demonstrators or police officers, the extent of the injuries, or if they all took place in the Mong Kok area.
One volunteer medic said she had seen four people with head injuries with “serious bleeding,” as well as a back fracture.
“They hit us without any reason when we were standing behind the roadblock. I was hit by a police stick four or five times,” protester Jackie said as he sat at a local hospital with his head bandaged. “There was no aggressive action on our side.”
CALL FOR PEACE: Czech President Petr Pavel raised concerns about China’s military maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait and its ‘unfriendly action’ in the South China Sea The leaders of three diplomatic allies — Guatemala, Paraguay and Palau — on Tuesday voiced support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the UN on the first day of the UN General Debate in New York. In his address during the 78th UN General Assembly, Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr urged the UN and all parties involved in cross-strait issues to exercise restraint and seek a peaceful resolution. “The well-being and prosperity of nations and their economies are intrinsically linked to global peace and stability,” he said. He also thanked partner nations such as Taiwan, Australia, Japan and the US for providing assistance
CROSS-STRAIT CONCERNS: At the same US Congress hearing, Mira Resnick said a US government shutdown could affect weapons sales and licenses to allies such as Taiwan A Chinese blockade of Taiwan would be a “monster risk” for Beijing and likely to fail, while a military invasion would be extremely difficult, senior Pentagon officials told the US Congress on Tuesday. Growing worries of a conflict come as China has ramped up military pressure on Taiwan, holding large-scale war games simulating a blockade on the nation, while conducting near-daily warplane incursions and sending Chinese vessels around its waters. US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner said a blockade would be “a monster risk for the PRC [People’s Republic of China].” “It would likely not succeed, and it
IMPORTS: Fifty-four million imported eggs with a value of more than NT$200 million had to be destroyed, mostly because they expired in storage facilities Minister of Agriculture Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) last night announced that he would resign from his post. Local media on Sunday reported that Chen had resigned due to controversy over the ministry’s egg import program. Later that same evening, the Executive Yuan said that Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) had asked the minister to stay on to resolve the issue. Chen Chi-chung last night made public his decision to resign on Facebook, saying that this time he would not be dissuaded. Chen Chi-chung earlier yesterday apologized for the furor surrounding the egg import program, but added that misinformation had made the problems worse. The government was
AMPHIBIOUS EXERCISES: The defense ministry said that it had detected 24 Chinese PLA Air Force planes entering Taiwan’s air defense zone over the previous 24 hours Chinese movements around Taiwan were “abnormal,” Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) said yesterday, flagging recent amphibious exercises in addition to drills Taipei has observed in China’s Fujian Province. Taiwan has reported a rise in Chinese military activity over the past week as dozens of fighters, drones, bombers and other aircraft, as well as warships, have operated around the nation. “Our initial analysis is that they are doing joint drills in September, including land, sea, air and amphibious,” Chiu told reporters at the legislature in Taipei. The “recent enemy situation is quite abnormal,” he said. The comments followed a statement from the