The launch of a campaign to blockade the heart of Hong Kong’s financial centre has been announced by the leader of a movement seeking greater democracy and freedoms.
The news came in the early hours of Sunday as tens of thousands of people gathered in the centre of Hong Kong less than 24 hours after riot police fired pepper spray to disperse activists who had stormed government headquarters to demand full democracy.
Benny Tai, leader of the movement Occupy Central with Love and Peace, called for the blockade after he joined students in the city to show his support for their protests.
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Police issued a news release on Saturday night urging the protesters to leave peacefully and avoid obstructing officers, saying that otherwise they would “soon take actions to restore public order”.
At least 34 people have been injured since the protest began, including four police officers and 11 government staff and guards, authorities said.
The campaign to blockade the financial centre comes after after more than 1,000 school pupils rallied to support university students demanding full democracy for Hong Kong, capping a week-long campaign that has seen classroom strikes. The students occupied an area outside government headquarters and defended their position with metal crowd-control barricades originally brought in by authorities.
The students are demanding China’s Communist leaders allow Hong Kong to hold fully democratic elections in 2017. China, which took control of the former British colony in 1997, has promised that Hong Kong can have universal suffrage. But tensions over the Asian financial hub’s political future boiled over after China’s legislature last month ruled out letting the public nominate candidates, instead insisting they be screened by a committee of Beijing loyalists similar to the one that currently picks the city’s leader.