More than 200 bus routes have been cancelled or diverted in a city dependent on public transport. Subway exits have also been closed near the protest areas.
The protest, which has gathered support from high school students to seniors, is the strongest challenge yet to Beijing’s decision to limit democratic reforms for the N B city.
The scenes of billowing tear gas and riot police outfitted with long-barreled weapons, rare for this affluent Asian financial hub, are highlighting the authorities’ inability to assuage public discontent over Beijing’s rejection last month of open nominations for candidates under proposed guidelines for the first-ever elections for Hong Kong’s leader, promised for 2017.
Earlier, police had attempted to control the crowd using pepper spray. Some of the protestors used umbrellas to shield themselves.
Authorities said some schools in areas near the main protest site would be closed, as Leung urged people to go home, obey the law and avoid causing trouble.
“We don’t want Hong Kong to be messy,” Leung stated.
The government said 26 people were taken to hospitals.
“This is a long fight. I hope the blockade will continue tomorrow, so the whole thing will be meaningful,” aforementioned19-year-old Edward Yau, 19, a business and law student. “The government has to understand that we have the ability to undo it if they continue to treat us like we are terrorists.”
When China took control of Hong Kong from the British in 1997, it agreed to a policy that allowed the city to have control over the policies of its own. It also promised the city’s leader would eventually be chosen through a universal suffrage policy.
Beijing’s insistence on using a committee to screen candidates on the basis of their allegiance to China — similar to the one that currently chooses Hong Kong’s leaders — has put fear among pro-democracy activists.
Students and the pro-democracy protestors have been camped out since late Friday on streets outside the government complex. Sunday’s clashes arose when police sought to block thousands of people from entering the protest zone. Protesters spilled onto a busy highway, bringing traffic to a standstill.
Hong Kong police warned of further harsh measures on Sunday as they tried to clear thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered outside government headquarters.
In a statement issued after midnight, the Hong Kong police said rumours that they had used rubber bullets to try to disperse protesters were “complete lies.”
Police in blue jumpsuits, wearing helmets and respirators, doused protesters with pepper spray when they tried to rip metal barricades apart.
Thousands of people breached a police cordon Sunday as they tried to join the sit-in, spilling out onto a busy highway and bringing traffic to a standstill.
Police said they had arrested 78 people. They also took away several pro-democracy protestors who were among the demonstrators, but later released them.
A police statement said the officers “have exercised restraint and performed their duties in a highly professional manner.”
Among the dozens arrested was 17-year-old Joshua Wong. He was released on Sunday, September 28th, 2014.