Hong Kong protesters break into legislature as tensions rise again

Reuters , Tuesday 18 Nov 2014

Hong Kong
Pro-democracy protesters remove barricades from an occupied area outside government headquarters in Hong Kong's Admiralty district Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 (Photo: AP)

A small group of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters broke into the city's legislature via a side door early on Wednesday, and police stopped others storming the building as tensions jumped following a period of calm.

The incident came just hours after court bailiffs managed to clear part of a protest camp in the heart of the city that has been occupied by pro-democracy demonstrators for nearly two months, while leaving most of the main protest site intact.

It was the first time protesters had broken into a key public building, defying the expectations of many political analysts who had predicted that Hong Kong's most tenacious and protracted movement was showing signs of finally winding down.

The flare-up came in the early hours of Wednesday when a small group of protesters charged towards the city's legislature and used metal barricades and concrete tiles to ram a glass side door. They eventually smashed through, with several managing to get inside, according to witnesses and a Reuters journalist.

Scores of riot police, some with shields and helmets, rushed over, using pepper spray and batons to keep crowds of other demonstrators from also breaking inside.

Police raised red signs warning protesters to stay back.

A democratic lawmaker at the scene, Fernando Cheung, said he and other protesters had tried to stop the small group of radical activists from breaking through.

"This is a very, very isolated incident. I think it's very unfortunate and this is something we don't want to see happen because the movement so far has been very peaceful," said Cheung, who had a few blood stains on his shirt afterwards.

On Tuesday, about 30 court bailiffs arrived at the 33-storey Citic Tower in the same Admiralty district to enforce an injunction against street barricades after a request from the building's owners.

The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that gives the city more autonomy and freedom than the mainland with the goal of universal suffrage.

The protesters are demanding open nominations in the city's next election for chief executive in 2017. Beijing has said it will allow a vote in 2017, but only between pre-screened candidates.

A similar injunction has been issued for a street in the gritty district of Mong Kok, another protest site across the harbour from Admiralty that has seen some of the most violent clashes over the past seven weeks.

It was not clear when authorities would enforce that order.

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