HONG KONG: Opposition groups clashed with pro-democracy protesters in ugly and chaotic scenes in one of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping districts Friday, while the government stepped up its rhetoric against the demonstrations.
Around 200 demonstrators faced off against a much 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.
It was not immediately clear whether the anti-protester groups were disgruntled local business people tired of the disruption, or —as some protesters alleged —hired hands brought in to stir up trouble.
Police tried to hold back angry demonstrators who surrounded the pro-democracy protesters at a junction they had been occupying for five days. Some students backed away toward an underground rail station, while others were driven back by cheering groups.
One small group chanted “I want genuine democracy,” while a crowd yelled at them to “Go home!” as police struggled to contain the confrontation.
“I don’t support Occupy Central. We have to work and make money. Occupy is just a game,” said a construction worker who gave his name as Mr. Lee.
“Give us Mong Kok back, we Hong Kongers need to eat!” yelled another man removing the barricades there.
Individuals from both sides pushed and shoved each other as water bottles were thrown and one anti-Occupy protester chanted: “Beat them to death, good job police!”
Police urged all sides to “stay calm and exercise restraint” in what they described in a statement as a “chaotic situation” in Mong Kok.
“Police are dealing with the situation at the scene and urge the people there to comply with the instructions of the Police officers. Police will take appropriate action to restore public order,” the statement said.
There were also confrontations in the busy commercial district of Causeway Bay.
One anti-protester there yelled: “This is not democracy, we need to feed our kids.”
Spectators cheered barricades being taken away.