Hong Kong: Hundreds of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters have faced off against police in a fresh escalation of tensions, with officers firing pepper spray at students trying to surround government headquarters.
In chaotic scenes, protesters wearing helmets and wielding umbrellas spilled into a major road outside the office of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying as police tried to beat them back with batons and pepper spray.
“I want true democracy!” protesters yelled. “Surround the headquarters. Paralyse the government.”
Protesters have been staging mass sit-ins in Hong Kong for more than two months, demanding free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
China’s communist authorities insist candidates for the 2017 vote must be vetted by a loyalist committee, which the protesters say will ensure the election of a pro-Beijing stooge.
Demonstrators stormed past police lines early on Monday to occupy Lung Wo Road, a main traffic artery connecting the east and west of Hong Kong island, and hastily erected new barricades from metal railings and plastic cable ties.
Several protesters were injured in the clashes. One was seen led away by police with a bloodied face, while others were tended to by first-aid volunteers after being fired at with pepper spray.
Protesters wore builders’ hard hats and used umbrellas – which have come to symbolise the pro-democracy movement – to shield themselves from the pepper spray.
Police had to dodge helmets and bottles that were lobbed through the air. One officer was carted into an ambulance on a stretcher.
“I’m more determined than ever, because the police are abusing their power,” protester Kelvin Lau told AFP.
The protests drew tens of thousands of people at times during their first weeks, but the numbers have dwindled as the movement’s leaders struggle to keep up momentum.