Violence echoed in Hong Kong’s streets on Saturday, as clashes between pro-democracy protesters and counter-protesters continued. Occupy Central organizers say their supporters have been attacked by pro-Beijing groups that include gang members. City officials say the streets need to be clear by Monday.
Discussions between the protesters and the government broke down after the violence. With thousands of protesters still in the streets, some are fearing that a crackdown might be imminent.
“Things can turn very drastic within the next couple of hours,” Democratic Party member and Hong Kong University associate professor Dr. Law Chi-Kwong said in an email quoted by the South China Morning Post. “I am begging everyone I know to leave.”
One week after the mostly student-led protests began, violence flared Friday and Saturday in incidents that involved “what appeared to be a coordinated group of pro-Beijing protesters,” as we reported yesterday.
Police arrested 19 people during the recent clashes, which also left 18 people injured.
From Hong Kong, NPR’s Anthony Kuhn reports:
“Pro-democracy protesters wearing yellow ribbons and pro-government protesters wearing blue ones argued and tussled again in the working-class Mong Kok district. The counter-protesters say the past six days of demonstrations have caused unacceptable chaos and economic losses to Hong Kong.
“Pro-democracy protesters allege that the government has hired criminal gangs to attack them. Police have confirmed that some of those arrested have links to organized crime. As a result, yesterday, protest leaders called off planned talks with government officials.”
The protesters say they want to replace Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung in open elections that aren’t influenced by Beijing. Leung says he’ll stay in his post.
In a speech today, Leung condemned last night’s violence and said the streets must be clear of demonstrations by Monday.
“The government and the police have the responsibility and resolution to take all actions necessary to resume social order and let the government and all 7 million citizens resume their normal work and life,” Leung said, according to a translation by the South China Morning Post.