At least 3,000 cops to clear Mongkok sites
THE Hong Kong police will help clear pro-democracy protest sites in the Mongkok district as soon as preparations are complete, amid signs of escalating tension after some demonstrators broke into lawmakers' offices yesterday.
A small group of protesters smashed through a glass door at the Legislative Council building in the Admiralty district early yesterday, using metal barricades and concrete blocks.
The police used pepper spray to repel other people who charged at them, footage broadcast on Cable TV Hong Kong showed. Protest leaders and pro-democracy lawmakers condemned the break-in.
The clash is another sign that the movement is splintering, with so-called pan-democrat legislators and student leaders unable to restrain the demonstrators.
The protesters want China to reverse its decision that candidates for the city's 2017 leadership election be vetted by a committee, a process they say renders the concept of universal suffrage meaningless.
"Those who conducted the charge did not discuss the aims and strategy of their action with the occupiers on-site beforehand," Occupy Central with Love and Peace, one of the protest groups, said in a statement on Facebook. The group "strongly condemns the forceful charging action".
"We don't understand the point of the action," Alex Chow, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, told reporters, referring to the break-in.
The move to clear Mongkok - scene of some of the most violent clashes during the protests - may start as early as today, the South China Morning Post said, citing an unidentified police official. At least 3,000 police officers, more than a 10th of the city's force, will go to the densely populated residential, shopping and entertainment district, the newspaper said.
Chief Superintendent Hui Chun Tak warned that the police will take "resolute action" against anyone interfering with bailiffs, and will not tolerate any violence.
Six people were arrested in connection with the violence at the Legislative Council building, and there will be more arrests, Chief Supt Hui said. Three officers were injured, he added.
The protesters' options are shrinking after their attempts to negotiate with the government failed, a trip by representatives to Beijing was thwarted and Hong Kong courts issued injunctions for the removal of some barricades.
The demonstrations, now in their eighth week, are the largest since China resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997.