Standoffs get ugly at HK protests


By Kelvin Chan and Elaine Kurtenbach ,AP

HONG KONG — Standoffs between Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters and their antagonists grew increasingly ugly Saturday, as the two sides traded insults and at times taunted police. The city’s leader said streets occupied by the protest must be cleared by Monday.

Although the mostly student-led protesters stuck to their pledges of non-violence, holding up their arms to show peaceful resistance, some shouted abuse at people who gathered to challenge their occupation of a major street in the blue-collar Mong Kok district, which is home to many migrants from the Chinese mainland.

“Go back to the mainland,” some shouted, cursing them in Cantonese.

Minor skirmishes broke out constantly, broken up by police or bystanders. Adding to the disorder, some residents dumped water from their apartments onto the people below.

The students accused police of failing to protect them from attacks Friday by mobs intent on driving them away, shouting “Black Police!” — a reference to their claim that the police had allied with “black societies,” or criminal gangs, to clear out the protesters. The claim was vehemently denied by the government.

Thousands of supporters attended an evening rally in solidarity with the pro-democracy movement’s calls for wider political reforms.

“Go Hong Kong!” they shouted.

“The more suppression by the government, the more resistance by the people,” Joshua Wong, a 17-year-old student leader declared.

The city’s top leader, Chief Secretary Leung Chun-ying, appeared on television Saturday evening to once again urge everyone to go home, saying things needed to get back to normal by Monday.

“There are many problems to be resolved in society, but the right way is through rational communication to seek common ground while holding back differences,” he said. “Not fighting on the streets, which makes things worse.”

Friday and early Saturday, police arrested 19 people during a night of running brawls in which at least 12 people and six officers were injured. Eight men were believed to have backgrounds linked to triads, or organized crime, said Senior Superintendent Patrick Kwok Pak-chung.

Officials vehemently denied rumors they might have coordinated with the gangs to clear the streets.