Hong Kong police have clashed with protesters demanding electoral reforms in the city.
Hong Kong’s Occupy Central pro-democracy movement launched a massive sit-in early on Sunday, paralyzing parts of the city in protest at a decision by China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) to restrict electoral reforms in the territory.
Clashes erupted after police fired tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the campaigners, who have blocked the city’s government district in their tens of thousands. Dozens of protesters were reportedly arrested during the clashes.
On Friday, about 1,000 secondary school goers gathered outside government offices.
Thousands of students from more than 20 universities along with 400 academics and non-teaching staff have boycotted classes since Monday, September 22, to protest the decision by the NPC.
The campaign was launched after Beijing decided to rule out open nominations for the city’s next chief executive in 2017, forcing the voters to choose from a list of two or three candidates selected by a nominating committee.
Activists insisted that the region’s citizens must be able to elect the chief executive. They believe the decision raises fears that candidates will be screened for loyalty to Beijing.
China has said it will introduce universal suffrage for the city’s 2017 election, but wants a committee to approve the candidates.
The election will be the first in which the chief executive is directly chosen by voters.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. The financial hub has enjoyed substantial political autonomy since 1997, when its leadership returned to China after about a century of British colonial rule.