HK police remove protesters from Central
HUNDREDS of Hong Kong policemen yesterday forcibly removed kicking and screaming protesters, holdouts of a mass rally in the central business district demanding greater democracy from Communist Party rulers in Beijing.
A pro-democracy march on Tuesday night, 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 in 1997.
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 policemen, as activists kicked, screamed and punched before being bundled onto 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 humidity.
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 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 obstructing police.
It was unclear how long they would be detained. About 50 were released without charge.
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.
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.
Said Helena Wong of the Democratic Party: "The voice of the Hong Kong people has been loud and so clear. If they (the Beijing and Hong Kong governments) choose to ignore it, they will have to pay the price. 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 that his government would do its "utmost" to move towards universal suffrage, and stressed the need for stability.