HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists forced the temporary closure of government headquarters on Monday after clashing with police, defying orders to retreat after more than two months of sustained protests in the Chinese-controlled city.
Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said police had been very tolerant but would now take “resolute action”, suggesting that patience may have finally run dry.
Chaos erupted as commuters made their way to work, with hundreds of protesters surrounding Admiralty Centre, which houses offices and retail outlets, in a stand-off with police. The central government offices and the legislature were forced to close in the morning, as were scores of shops.
The latest flare-up, during which police charged protesters with batons and pepper spray, underscored the frustration of protesters at Beijing’s refusal to budge on electoral reforms and grant greater democracy to the former British colony.
“Some people have mistaken the police’s tolerance for weakness,” Leung told reporters. “I call for students who are planning to return to the occupation sites tonight not to do so.”
He did not respond when asked if police would clear the sites on Monday.
The democracy movement represents one of the biggest threats for China’s Communist Party leadership since Beijing’s bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy student protests in and around Tiananmen Square.
Hundreds of riot police scattered the crowds in several rounds of heated clashes overnight, forcing protesters back with pepper spray and batons.
Scores of volunteer medics attended to numerous injured, some who lay unconscious and others with blood streaming from head gashes. Police said at least 40 arrests were made.