Pro-democracy protesters and Hong Kong police clashed early Wednesday morning in what has become the most violent incident since widespread protests began more than two weeks ago.
Wielding riot gear and pepper spray, hundreds of police officers advanced on protesters blocking a major east-west tunnel route near the government headquarters in Central.
According to the New York Times, 45 protesters were arrested in the standoff that began at 3 a.m. Police use pepper spray in an attempt to disperse the crowd and remove the metal barricades and concrete barriers protesters had set-up in the tunnel to block traffic from passing through. The tunnel was eventually reopened with the protesters pushed out into a nearby park.
There has been at least one allegation of police brutality after local television station TV Pearl aired footage of a man handcuffed on the ground in an alleyway being kicked by several police officers.
The incident follows growing impatience from police and government officials over the protests that have snarled city traffic. Over the past several days, police have been eroding the front lines of the protests by removing barriers.
Just hours before Wednesday’s violent scuffle, police used chainsaws to remove bamboo and plywood barricades from Queensway, a major thoroughfare.
The number of protesters on the street have fallen since the unrest first began. At the Umbrella Movement’s peak, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers flooded the streets in opposition to Beijing’s decision to screen the candidates of the city’s first free elections for the Chief Executive.
However, the central government of the People’s Republic of China has rejected their demands and requests to meet student protest leaders.
“In achieving universal suffrage in 2017, if the prerequisite is to put down the Basic Law and the decision made by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, I believe we all know that the chance is almost zero,” said Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in a television statement.
Feature Image: AFP