Hong Kong, Oct 5 :
Clashes in Hong Kong between pro-democracy activists and counter-protesters continued Saturday, while one of the groups leading the week-long demonstrations demanded explanations from the local government as a pre-condition for returning to the negotiating table.
Criticism of the pro-Beijing government of this semi-autonomous Chinese territory continued to mount over the police’s alleged passivity in dealing with hundreds of counter-protesters, who have violently tried to drive the mainly young, student-led demonstrators from the occupied streets.
The clashes Friday night and early Saturday left 18 people injured, including students and reporters who said they were attacked by both the counter-demonstrators and police. Nineteen people were arrested.
The main organisers of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong — Occupy Central, Scholarism and the Hong Kong Federation of Students — said Friday they were suspending talks with the Chinese government following a day of violence they claimed was orchestrated and carried out by supporters of China’s rule.
A Federation leader said Saturday that the group will not engage in talks unless the government offers explanations about attacks on the pro-democracy demonstrators Friday and Saturday.
Counter-demonstrators continued to clash Saturday morning with the students, trying to break up their protest camps in the districts of Mong Kok, the commercial heart of Hong Kong, and the commercial district of Causeway Bay.
Police and the Hong Kong government said that among those arrested Friday were eight members of organised crime gangs known as triads.
Opposition, pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong’s parliament Saturday said the violent incidents were the result of a coordinated effort between the government and the triads against the student activists.
But the secretary for security of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, Lai Tung-kwok, vehemently denied those allegations, calling them “irrational and extremely unfair”.
Roughly a thousand activists remained at the protest camps Saturday, many expressing anger at the passivity of the police.
“I’ll keep coming. The Hong Kong government has shown its dark side. We’re not just another city of the Chinese mainland,” Chui Kayan, a student who has been sleeping in the protest camps since last Sunday, said.
“The people of Hong Kong are easy to manage and keep content, but the lack of respect with which the government is treating us is unacceptable… I can’t believe this is Hong Kong,” Kelvin Li said in Mong Kok, which was the epicenter of Friday’s clashes and also the scene of violence Saturday, although to a lesser degree.
The protesters’ demands include a call for the resignation or removal of the chief executive of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, Leung Chung-ying, widely seen as Beijing’s puppet.
They also are seeking guarantees that Hong Kong citizens can freely vote for their leaders in 2017 from an unrestricted list of candidates, as Beijing promised when Britain handed over the territory in 1997.