HONG KONG (AFP) – Pro-democracy protesters clashed with opposition groups in two of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping districts Friday, with police stepping in to try to calm the chaos.
Around 200 demonstrators faced off against a larger group of anti-protesters in Mong Kok after they started to dismantle barricades in an apparent backlash against the demonstrations, which have brought parts of the city to a standstill.
The groups were separated by only a single line of police holding hands, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
“Give us Mong Kok back, we Hong Kongers need to eat!” shouted one man removing the barricades there.
Scuffles also broke out between an estimated 25 pro-democracy activists and 50 anti-protesters in Causeway Bay.
One anti-protester there yelled, “This is not democracy, we need to feed our kids”. Spectators cheered barricades being taken away.
Some questioned the motivations of the anti-protest groups.
“I feel like the people participating in this are not doing it out of a genuine heart, but being paid… to do the dirty work for the police,” said one pro-democracy supporter.
The emotional scenes took place as the city returned to work after a two-day public holiday.
Store owners have told of a massive downturn in business in recent days, and television footage Friday showed incensed delivery drivers saying the protests were stopping them.
Police removed one anti-protester from Causeway Bay after pinning him to the ground.
“I supported (the pro-democracy activists) at first but when they escalated their action, they have gone too far,” said Janice Lamb, 54, an onlooker in Causeway Bay.
But some pro-democracy demonstrators said they still believed the general public was behind them.
“We’re just here to help people speak up so Hong Kong people have their voices heard,” said a 27-year-old protester who gave his name as Mr Lee.
“If we were like them (their opponents) in 10 or 20 years there would only be one voice heard in this city,” he said.