Showdown between protestors and police coming in Hong Kong
Police officials in Hong Kong are warning that they will not tolerate the "occupation" of Civic Square in the city's government district and have indicated they will clear the area "shortly."
Tens of thousands of protestors, with more joining the occupation every day, are demanding political reform in the face of Chinese backsliding on commitments to Hong Kong democracy. Specifically, Beijing announced that they would vet all candidates for the 2017 contest to elect a chief executive. The protestors feel this breaks a promise by China when they took over in 1997 not to change the political nature of the city.
The weekend's demonstrations follow a week of student-led boycotts and protests against what many see as the encroachment of China's political will on Hong Kong's governance, in the face of China's decision to only allow Beijing-vetted candidates to stand in the city's elections for chief executive, Hong Kong's top civil position.
Thousands remain at the protest site at government buildings in Hong Kong's business district. Police have indicated that the site will be cleared shortly.
While the protests -- which have swelled following two consecutive nights of "occupation" of government property -- have been largely peaceful, police say they have made dozens of arrests. Those taken into custody range in age from 16 to 58.
Pepper spray has been used, along with tear gas being deployed against more than one group of protesters around the Central Government Offices. Riot police have also wielded batons against protesters. CNN teams witnessed police donning riot gear and gas masks.
Emergency personnel have been deployed to the front line of the clashes.
The city's chief administrator, Chief Executive C.Y. Leung, said at a news conference Sunday afternoon that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government is "resolute in opposing the unlawful occupation" of the government buildings.
"The police are determined to handle the situation appropriately in accordance with the law," he said.
Protest organizers announced early Sunday evening that demonstrators have occupied the upscale Pacific Place shopping mall, located near the main protest site. They said that numbers of protesters continue to grow.
Leung, who was addressing the protesters for the first time, urged Hong Kong's residents to express their dissatisfaction with the political process in a safe and lawful manner.
He said that a round of consultations on electoral reform will take place "shortly" but went on to appeal to pro-democracy activists to engage in rational discussions through lawful means "so as to allow the more than 5 million eligible voters in Hong Kong to elect the chief executive in 2017 for the first time in Hong Kong's history by one person, one vote." He reaffirmed that the government in Hong Kong will uphold Beijing's decision.
The Chinese central government said that it is "confident" that the Hong Kong government can handle the movement lawfully, according to a report in Chinese state media. The Chinese government opposes all illegal activities that "could undermine rule of law and jeopardize 'social tranquility,'" the report says.
Yvonne Leung, the spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Federation of Students, which organized the protest, told CNN that the demonstrators plan to continue to occupy the area outside Hong Kong government headquarters in an act of civil disobedience.
The Chinese government has played the python to Hong Kong's rat in recent years, slowly trying to strangle the political life of the city. This has not gone unnoticed and the decision by the Chinese to have the final say in who gets to run for office in Hong Kong appeared to be the breaking point. The Chinese government is no doubt worried that the Hong Kong demonstrations might spread to the mainland, and may try to make an example of the Hong Kong protests to discourage others from trying the same thing.