Would You Like Pepper With That? Hong Kong Protesters Return to Mong Kok DistrictPosted: October 17, 2014
HONG KONG—Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators swarmed back to a protest site Friday night that police had cleared earlier in the day, clashing with officers yet again on the streets of a city struggling to find a way out of a deepening political crisis.
“Apparently their action has triggered more people to occupy Mong Kok again. It’s totally congested with protesters who are forced by police to block the sidewalks and we couldn’t move at all.”
— Lisa Wan
Crowds swelled in the city’s Mong Kok district, one of Hong Kong’s three main protest sites, chanting “open the way” as police in riot gear linked hands to block people from crossing into the area’s main streets. People who were being held back by officers spilled onto side streets and onto already-packed sidewalks, as crowds shouted and jeered.
Police used pepper spray on several protesters and detained a number of people, including acclaimed international photojournalist Paula Bronstein. A representative for Getty Images said Ms. Bronstein was on assignment for Getty to shoot the protests in Hong Kong and was awaiting more information.
Hours earlier, before dawn Friday, protesters voluntarily left the Mong Kok encampment after hundreds of officers descended on the site and ordered the crowds to pack up and leave. Police were able to reopen traffic on one of the major thoroughfares in the area for the first time in days. But later in the morning, protesters started to rebuild their camp, again closing one lane of traffic. Tents re-emerged and trolleys of water and food were carted in as police lined the block and watched.
By Friday evening, thousands of protesters were again trying to fully close the entire street as police struggled to keep them at bay. Traffic was snarled throughout the area, and police tried to move demonstrators out of the way of city buses that had been caught up in the standoff.
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Lisa Wan, a 19-year-old student, said she felt the police attempts to clear Mong Kok of protesters early Friday made the situation in the crowded neighborhood even worse. “Apparently, their action has triggered more people to occupy Mong Kok again,” Ms. Wan said Friday night. “It’s totally congested with protesters who are forced by police to block the sidewalks and we couldn’t move at all.”
Authorities have been trying for days to dislodge the protesters from busy city streets, but in doing so, officers have risked deepening the standoff against the students, even as government officials attempt to open negotiations with protest leaders. The near-nightly scuffles throughout the city have frustrated the government and have angered the students, adding to a sense of deep mutual mistrust.
The police’s attempt to clear the protest site in Mong Kok on Friday morning “raises strong doubts about the government’s sincerity to engage in dialogue,” Occupy Central with Love and Peace, one of the city’s main protest groups, said Friday evening.
—Chester Yung contributed to this article.
- New scuffles break out at Hong Kong protest site (star-telegram.com)
- Crowd tries to charge Hong Kong democracy protest (usatoday.com)
- Hong Kong government vows to probe alleged police beating at protest (cnn.com)
- The fight that should’ve ended by now (news.com.au)