Hong Kong police have used pepper spray to disperse pro-democracy activists who stormed a security check-point at a venue where a senior Chinese official was explaining Beijing’s decision not to grant the former British colony full democracy.
Footage broadcast on cable television on Monday showed police spraying protesters with what appeared to be pepper spray, outside the hall where Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the Chinese assembly, was speaking.
Then as Li started to speak, a separate group of pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers and protesters heckled him, briefly suspending his speech and the meeting.
Veteran dissident lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung started shouting him down, his fist raised in the air.
Leung was then joined by a dozen pro-democracy lawmakers and some younger demonstrators who unfurled a banner in front of the lectern where Li was speaking from and chanted: “The central government broke its promise, shameless.”
On Sunday, Beijing ignited anger in the special administrative region after it rejected demands by pro-democracy activists for Hong Kong’s right to freely choose the city’s next leader in two years.
China’s National People’s Congress said the city’s next chief executive will be elected by popular vote in 2017, but insisted on its right to pick the candidates.
After the decision was announced, activists vowed an “era of civil disobedience” including mass sit-ins of the international trading hub’s financial district.
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Hong Kong, said that competing demonstrations are being staged in city, with pro-China group outnumbering the pro-democracy group.
Our correspondent said that demonstrators sympathetic to China insisted that Hong Kong remains under the control of Chinese government and that “nothing will come out from angering Beijing”.
Under socialist system
Delivering his speech in Mandarin in the largely Cantonese speaking city, Li repeated Beijing’s insistence that China will not tolerate a leader who is disloyal to the mainland.
“Anyone who does not love the country, love Hong Kong or is confrontational towards the central government shall not be the chief executive,” he said.
“(Those who) wish Hong Kong will become an independent political entity or will change the country’s socialist system will not have a political future.”
Li flew into Hong Kong from Beijing late on Sunday and was forced to drive past a crowd of largely student protesters who had gathered outside his hotel, in the kind of scenes that would be unthinkable on the Chinese mainland.
China took reins of Hong Kong from Britian in 1997. It allows some degree of civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including free speech and the right to protest.
Chinese state media on Monday said those embarking on a civil disobedience campaign were destined to fail.
The government-published China Daily said: “The people of Hong Kong have a critical decision to make: to embrace a hitherto unprecedented level of democracy, or the disruptive, reckless political gamble to be staged by the radicals.”