HONG KONG: Hong Kong police have arrested at least 22 people during a series of protests targeting a senior Chinese official visiting the city, authorities said on Tuesday.
The city has been plunged into political crisis after pro-democracy activists vowed to take over the streets of the city’s financial district following Beijing’s refusal to grant citizens full universal suffrage.
In the kind of scenes that would be unthinkable on the mainland, Li Fei, a senior member of China’s rubber stamp parliament, has been dogged by angry de-monstrations throughout his visit to the former British colony—including lawmakers heckling him during a speech on Monday.
Li is in town to explain China’s controversial proposal to control who stands for the top post in the city’s next leadership election, a decision that has prompted pro-democracy activists to embark on what they describe as a new “era of civil disobedience.”
Protesters have kept a vigil outside Li’s hotel with renewed scuffles breaking out late on Monday evening.
“During the protest, the participants forcibly pushed the mills barriers, charged the police cordon line and dashed onto the carriageway,” police said in a statement published on Tuesday.
Officers made 19 arrests outside the luxury Grand Hyatt Hotel in the Wan Chai district of the city late Monday. Eighteen of the protestors were arrested for “unlawful assembly,” the state-ment said. The other activist was arrested for ob-structing a police officer.
Earlier in the day, police used pepper spray on demonstrators at a convention center on the outskirts of the city where Li gave a speech that was punctuated by regular interruptions by protesters and pro-democracy lawmakers.
Three people were subse-quently arrested for disorder in a public place, police told AFP, adding that they were still being detained as of early afternoon on Tuesday.
Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday his government supports the reform proposal put forward by the standing committee of Beijing’s National People’s Congress (NPC) while admitting “some” people were not satisfied.
But he called on detractors think hard about campaigning against the city’s first shot at limited universal suffrage.
“We should ask ourselves . . . what is the relationship between Hong Kong and the central government?” Leung said. “Do we want universal suffrage in chief executive elections in 2017 and thereafter?” he added.
The NPC standing committee said on Sunday Hong Kong citizens will be allowed to elect their next leader in 2017—but candidates must be chosen by a pro-Beijing committee and must win the backing of more than half of the committee members to stand.
Chinese authorities, meanwhile, have demanded Britain drop an inquiry into the progress of democratic reforms in Hong Kong, accusing it of “highly inappropriate” interference in its affairs, the BBC reported on Monday.
Britain handed Hong Kong back to China on July 1, 1997 under an agreement which allows civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including free speech and the right to protest. AFP