Violent clashes have erupted again in a Hong Kong protest hot spot as activists confronted riot police despite the confirmation of talks between protest leaders and officials to be held early next week.
Demonstrators launched a fresh offensive in the early hours of Sunday in Mong Kok, charging metal barricades, as police officers beat them with batons and fired pepper spray canisters.
Amid screams and cursing, hundreds of officers began hitting protesters who raised a wall of umbrellas, now a symbol of the demonstrations. Police then counter-attacked with their own charge, forcing the protesters back.
“Black Police! Black Police!” the crowds shouted amid the chaos. One protester in a white T-shirt and goggles was beaten by a flurry of batons, leaving him bleeding from the head.
Some injured protesters were taken to nearby Kwung Wah hospital, where activists told the AFP news agency that at least 10 were being treated for injuries to their legs, arms and heads, including suspected fractures.
Police said in a Sunday statement they had used “minimum force” as protesters approached their cordon lines.
A senior policeman, Paul Renouf, told the Reuters news agency that 400 to 500 officers were sent to force the crowds from a key intersection in the area. However, the protesters remained.
Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan, reporting from Hong Kong, said it was difficult for the police to take action against the protesters as they were spread out and outnumbered the security forces in the area.
The clashes come a day after police launched an early morning raid to force protesters from a semi-permanent camp. Their actions brought thousands of more activists into Mong Kok.
Talks planned for Tuesday
Hong Kong’s strong police force have been struggling to contain a youth-led movement that has shown little sign of waning after three weeks of a campaign demanding greater democratic rights.
The renewed battles also come just hours after Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader Leung Chun-ying offered talks to student leaders next Tuesday in an attempt to defuse the protests.
The government said the talks, which will be broadcast live, would be focused on constitutional reform, with both sides allowed to bring five members to the meeting.
However, hopes of any breakthrough are slim, with the government unlikely to cede to protesters’ core demands.
The protesters want 2017 elections for a new leader to be fully democratic. Beijing, which took control of Hong Kong from the UK in 1997, is allowing only pre-approved candidates to stand.
According to Al Jazeera’s Gopalan, student leaders say that in the talks, they will ask the government for suggestions on how to move on with democratic reforms in Hong Kong.
She added that the government assigned a mediator in these talks, a professor known to be pro-Beijing, which was likely to make the process controversial.