Hong Kong protesters defy officials’ call to disperse
HONG KONG — A wave of protest in Hong Kong further engulfed the city Monday as thousands of residents defied a government call to abandon street blockades, students boycotted classes and the city’s influential bar association added its condemnation of a police crackdown on protesters.
The continued public resistance underscored the difficulties the Hong Kong government faces in defusing widespread anger that erupted Sunday, after police used tear gas, pepper spray and batons to break up a three-day sit-in by students and other residents demanding democratic elections in the semiautonomous Chinese territory.
On Monday afternoon, the Hong Kong government canceled the city’s annual fireworks show to mark China’s National Day, which falls on Wednesday — an implicit acknowledgment that officials expect the protests to continue for days.
The police crackdown Sunday not only failed to dislodge protesters from a major thoroughfare in the heart of Hong Kong but appeared Monday to have motivated more people to join the student-led protests. A government announcement that the riot police had been withdrawn from the protest centers also seemed to open the door to growing demonstrations. The number of protesters, which had ebbed overnight, swelled again by midday Monday, as office workers in slacks and dress shirts mixed with crowds of students in black T-shirts.
Unrest in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory and global financial hub, could lead to a long confrontation between the government and demonstrators.
Hong Kong, a British colony until 1997, when China resumed sovereignty, has operated under a policy of “one country, two systems.”
The city maintains an independent judiciary, and residents enjoy greater civil liberties than residents of mainland China. Hong Kong has a robust tradition of free speech.
Democratic groups say Beijing has chipped away at those freedoms, citing an election law proposed last month that would limit voting reforms.
China had promised free elections for Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017. But the government rejected a call for open nominations of candidates, instead proposing that candidates would continue to be chosen by a committee dominated by Beijing.
The current city leader, Leung Chun-ying, has clashed with the pro-democracy opposition. After the crackdown on protesters Sunday, some called for his resignation.
Many of the new arrivals said they were angered by the police’s actions Sunday, which they called excessive.