Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters have returned to the streets for their first big rally since mass protests last year.
A large police presence was in force to deter protesters from reoccupying key areas of Hong Kong.
Protesters were not reported to be planning a repeat of the occupations that shut down parts of the city.
Last year’s Occupy demonstrations called for fully democratic elections for the territory’s chief executive.
China has promised the semi-autonomous territory direct elections in 2017, but ruled that candidates had to be vetted by Beijing.
Initial estimates suggested around 3,000 protesters marched through the city’s upmarket shopping and financial districts, watched by about 2,000 police officers.
Many demonstrators carried yellow umbrellas – the symbol of the political campaign.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators had taken to the streets in September last year, demanding political change.
There were violent clashes with police, and the final protest camp was dismantled in December.
One organizer of the latest march, Daisy Chan, told the AFP news agency it would show that last year’s demonstrations were a watershed for Hong Kong.
Before the march police had been wary of reports that there were no plans for protesters to reoccupy public areas, issuing a statement saying: “It is believed that those supporting the illegal occupation are likely to seize the opportunity to reoccupy roads which have been now reopened to traffic.”
Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-ming, the founders of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement, have turned themselves in to police over their role in pro-democracy demonstrations.
The trio said they wanted to take responsibility for protests deemed illegal by authorities.
However, after a brief meeting they left without being arrested or charged.
Protesters have been demonstrating for two months over Beijing’s restrictions on Hong Kong’s election process.
Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-ming walked into the Central Police Station to turn themselves in together with Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who has supported the protests.
The three men left less than an hour later, saying they were being released without charge.
They were asked to provide their personal details and tick against a list of offences. The men ticked the box for “illegal assembly”.
Officers had told them that because they had not been arrested, the police could only collect information from them and would “invite them back to the police station at an appropriate time”.
Some supporters followed suit. Police said a total of 24 people surrendered and officers told them to immediately stop illegal occupation of public places.
As they arrived, the Occupy founders were met by a large gathering of supporters outside the police station, who shouted: “I want true democracy!” as they walked in.
Anti-Occupy groups also showed up, greeting the men with jeers and shouts of: “Arrest them!”
Earlier, Benny Tai told a radio show that he had no regrets, saying: “In hindsight, I would still do the same thing.”
Occupy Central led the street protests when they began in September, but has since receded as student groups have become more prominent.
The protesters want China to scrap its plan to screen candidates for the territory’s 2017 leadership election, and want the Hong Kong government to renegotiate the political arrangement with Beijing.
Announcing their plan to present themselves to police on December 2, the Occupy Central founders repeated their call for student activists to scale back their protests, amid sporadic clashes with police.
One protest camp in Mong Kok has been taken down by the authorities, but a few hundred protesters refuse to vacate the remaining two camps at Admiralty and Causeway Bay.
Alex Chow, head of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, told reporters that student leaders would not follow Occupy and turn themselves into police.
Meanwhile another student leader, Joshua Wong, is on a hunger strike along with two female members of his Scholarism group to demand talks on political reform with the Hong Kong authorities.
Occupy Central founders have repeated their call for Hong Kong protesters to retreat.
Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-ming also said they would turn themselves in to police on December 3.
Occupy Central movement initially led the pro-democracy protests, but has receded as students continued with demonstrations.
Student leader Joshua Wong has begun a hunger strike to demand talks with the Hong Kong authorities over the movement’s ideas for political reforms.
Occupy and the students want China to scrap its plans to screen candidates for the 2017 election for the territory’s leadership. They want the Hong Kong government to renegotiate the arrangement with Beijing.
In a statement read out by Benny Tai at Tuesday’s press conference, where Chu Yiu-ming was seen weeping, the founders said they were handing themselves in to police to demonstrate “commitment and responsibility”.
The three added: “For the sake of the occupiers’ safety, for the sake of our original intention of love and peace, as we prepare to surrender, we three urge the students to retreat – to put down deep roots in the community and transform the movement to extend the spirit of the Umbrella Movement.”
Occupy Central plans to continue its work through public debates, community education and funding democracy groups.
Joshua Wong began his hunger strike on Monday night, along with two other members of his Scholarism group, in the hopes of reopening dialogue with the government and “restarting the political reform process”.
On December 2 he told reporters: “We admit that it’s difficult in the future to have an escalated action, so besides suffering from batons and tear gas, we would like to use our body to get public attention.”
“We are not sure if the hunger strike can put pressure on the government, but we hope that when the public realizes about the student hunger strike, they will ask themselves what they can do next.”
On Sunday night and early Monday, hundreds of protesters clashed with police as they tried to surround government offices in Admiralty.
The move was an escalation of protests in retaliation to authorities clearing the Mong Kok camp while acting on court orders. The protest sites at Admiralty and Causeway Bay still remain.
Hong Kong protesters have retaken streets in the Mong Kok district cleared by the authorities just a few hours earlier.
Some 9,000 protesters pushed back riot police, managing to retake territory south of a major intersection.
They have been occupying parts of the city for weeks, angered at China’s curbs on who can stand in Hong Kong’s next leadership election in 2017.
Police made 26 arrests for assault and other offenses on Friday evening.
Fifteen police officers were injured in the clashes, police said, while several protesters were seen being knocked to the ground during the latest scuffles, AP news agency reports.
Protest group Occupy Central issued a statement saying that the clearance operations ordered by the government had “triggered a new wave of occupations and worsened relations between police and citizens”.
The Mong Kok camp in Kowloon is an offshoot of the original protest site around government offices in Admiralty on Hong Kong Island.
Hong Kong protesters have retaken streets in the Mong Kok district cleared by the authorities just a few hours earlier
Protesters and police are also congregating at Admiralty, although there are no reports of clashes.
Earlier on Friday, Alex Chow from the Federation of Students said both his group and the government had agreed to meet on October 21, in talks that would be broadcast live on radio, the South China Morning Post reported.
Hong Kong leader CY Leung said on October 16 that the government was ready for talks, but China would not retract its decision to vet candidates for the 2017 elections.
The last time talks were scheduled they were cancelled by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who said it was impossible to have constructive dialogue while the occupation of city streets continued.
Protester numbers have dropped off since the start of the month, when tens of thousands were on the streets. But tensions escalated this week, with violent clashes as police cleared an underpass on Lung Wo Road near the chief executive’s offices.
A video showing plainclothes police officers beating an unarmed protester, who is a member of the pro-democracy Civic Party, also sparked outrage.
Police said seven officers had been suspended pending an investigation.
Hong Kong protesters have accepted an offer of talks with the government after a week of unrest.
Chief Executive CY Leung Leung offered the talks with his deputy late on Thursday, October 2, but rejected calls to resign.
The protesters, angry at China’s plan to vet election candidates, have been occupying parts of the city since the weekend, though numbers have fallen.
Beijing has thrown its full support behind CY Leung, calling the protests illegal and “doomed to fail”.
On Friday, October 3, Hong Kong temporarily closed government offices in the main protest-hit area, saying staff should work from home because roads were blocked.
Though the protests were significantly smaller on Friday, some groups remained on the streets. In a sign of tensions, there were some scuffles as police tried to keep protesters back from the buildings.
Scuffles also broke out in the Mong Kok district between protesters and residents who oppose the demonstrations. Similar disturbances were reported from the Causeway Bay area.
Police were sent to Mong Kok where pro-Beijing groups had reportedly tried to remove barriers and tents.
At a news conference, the police have heavily criticized the protesters for obstructing traffic and blocking supplies reaching the government offices.
“It is unreasonable, unnecessary and severely affecting emergency services and the life of the public,” police spokesman Hui Chun-tak said.
Hong Kong protesters have accepted an offer of talks with the government after a week of unrest
Hui Chun-tak urged protesters to leave the area outside the government buildings in an orderly fashion, but stressed the police would remain impartial and “exercise the greatest tolerance”.
On the issue of talks, the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) said it would have a public meeting with Chief Administration Secretary Carrie Lam, but insisted that CY Leung should step down, saying he had “lost his integrity”.
The Occupy Central movement issued a statement saying it hoped “the talks can provide a turning point in the current political stalemate”. It also called for CY Leung’s resignation.
Benny Tai, co-founder of Occupy Central movement, also visited students outside government offices – who have reportedly attempted to block supplies from reaching the police – and urged them to show understanding.
“Everyone loves Hong Kong and we all hope to have a peaceful and just society, and on this journey we must show inclusivity,” he said, according to Apple Daily.
The students had threatened to escalate their protests and occupy government buildings if CY Leung did not resign by Thursday night.
Hours before the deadline, he said in a news briefing: “I will not resign because I have to continue with the work for elections.”
He warned that any attempts to occupy buildings would lead to “serious consequences”.
At the heart of the row is how Hong Kong elects its next leader. In August, Beijing ruled that while Hong Kong residents would have a vote, their choice of candidates would be restricted by a committee.
The protesters say this falls short of the free elections they are seeking.
Hong Kong protesters are preparing for huge pro-democracy rallies on the National Day as leader CY Leung has urged them to back electoral reforms set out by Beijing.
Speaking early on the National Day holiday, CY Leung said Hong Kong should work with Beijing to achieve progress.
The protesters want Beijing to withdraw plans to vet candidates for the next Hong Kong leadership election in 2017.
Activists say they expect the biggest demonstrations yet on the streets to coincide with the holiday.
By midday, protesters were starting to fill up the main protests site in the Central business district, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok. A fourth protest site has also spread to Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, several roads south of Mong Kok.
CY Leung, Hong Kong’s chief executive, has rejected campaigners’ calls for him to stand down. Chinese President Xi Jinping has reaffirmed Beijing’s control over the territory.
A rumbling protest campaign ballooned into mass street demonstrations at the weekend.
Police responded initially with tear gas and pepper spray, but riot police later withdrew and since early on Monday the situation has remained calm.
The protesters want Beijing to withdraw plans to vet candidates for the next Hong Kong leadership election in 2017 (photo Reuters)
Crowds swelled again on Tuesday night and the demonstrators – who include student groups, supporters of the Occupy Central movement and others angered by the police response – say they are confident of greater numbers on Wednesday, October 1.
So far there are no signs of concessions from Beijing.
On September 30, President Xi Jinping told Communist Party leaders that his government would “steadfastly safeguard the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macau”.
The protests are seen as a direct challenge to Beijing’s grip on the territory’s politics. Analysts say leaders are worried that calls for democracy could spread to mainland cities.
News of the protests is being heavily censored in mainland China. Media have blamed “radical opposition forces” for stirring up trouble.
Meanwhile the US restated its position on the protests, saying that a genuine choice of candidates in the election would enhance the legitimacy of the chief executive.
On September 30, state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Secretary of State John Kerry would discuss the protests with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi when the pair meet on October 1.
Hong Kong leader CY Leung has urged Occupy Central protesters to stop their campaign after tens of thousands of people have been blocking streets in several areas.
The protesters want Beijing to give Hong Kong a free vote for its next leader, something Beijing has rejected.
The streets are now relatively quiet but crowds are set to swell later ahead of Chinese National Day on October 1.
People were sleeping and clearing up on September 30 before larger gatherings expected during the evening.
October 1 is a national holiday marking the founding of Communist China.
At the weekend police used tear gas and pepper spray, but riot police have since been withdrawn and protesters remain calm.
Key parts of the city are being blocked by protesters, with some schools and banks closed.
CY Leung has urged Occupy Central protesters to stop their campaign after tens of thousands of people have been blocking Hong Kong streets
The protesters want CY Leung, the chief executive, to step down. But he appeared to reject their demand, saying that his removal would mean Hong Kong’s next leader being chosen by a committee, as in 2012, rather than by voters.
CY Leung also called on the protesters – a mix of students, supporters of the pro-democracy Occupy Central group and others angered by the police response to the protests – to go home.
“Occupy Central founders had said repeatedly that if the movement is getting out of control, they would call for it to stop,” CY Leung said.
“I’m now asking them to fulfill the promise they made to society, and stop this campaign immediately.”
Beijing ruled last month that Hong Kong people can elect their next leader in 2017.
But the choice of candidates will be restricted to two or three people who must be approved by the majority of a pro-Beijing committee – meaning Beijing can effectively screen candidates.
In Hong Kong, further consultations had been due to take place on the ruling but on September 29 a senior official said these would be postponed until a “better time”.
In its latest statement, Occupy Central accused the government of “delay tactics”, saying it believed the government was “just hoping people’s desire for genuine universal suffrage to fade out over time”.
Occupy Central also repeated calls for CY Leung’s resignation, saying he would be “condemned by the history of democratic development in Hong Kong”.
Tens of thousands of protesters have blocked the streets of Hong Kong, shutting down businesses and ignoring appeals to leave.
The demonstrations have spread to other areas including a shopping district and a residential area.
Riot police withdrew on September 29 after overnight clashes in which they used batons and fired volleys of tear gas to try to disperse the crowds.
China has warned other countries not to support the “illegal rallies”.
Its foreign ministry said it opposed any interference in China’s internal affairs.
Meanwhile the British government called for the right to protest to be protected.
Tens of thousands of protesters have blocked the streets of Hong Kong, shutting down businesses and ignoring appeals to leave (photo AFP)
Protesters – a mix of students and supporters of the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement – are angry at Beijing’s plans to vet candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 leadership elections.
They want a free choice of candidates when they cast their ballots for the chief executive – something Beijing says is out of the question.
On September 28, dozens of protesters have been arrested on Hong Kong’s streets as tens of thousands of protesters faced riot police in the heart of the city.
In a news conference on September 29, Cheung Tak-keung, assistant commissioner of police for operations, said police had used the “bare minimum force”.
Cheung Tak-keung said 41 people had been injured in the past three days, including 12 police officers.
The Hong Kong government urged protesters to stay calm and leave peacefully but crowds remained camped out around the government complex.
About 3,000 people have also blocked a major road across the bay in Mongkok, on the Kowloon peninsula, while a crowd of about 1,000 faced police in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay, east of central Hong Kong.
Schools in the Wan Chai, Central and Western districts were closed on September 29 and will remain shut on the next day, according to the Hong Kong Education Bureau.
The city remains heavily disrupted, with several major thoroughfares blocked.
China, which stations a garrison of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Hong Kong, said it was confident the city’s administration could handle the protests.
Tensions escalated on September 28 when the broader Occupy Central protest movement threw its weight behind student-led protests, bringing forward a mass civil disobedience campaign due to start on October 1.
Occupy Central protesters have issued demands for the Chinese government to scrap rules outlining the election of the next chief executive in 2017.
The protest group also wants the resumption of public consultation on democratic reforms.
Thousands of protesters are camped outside government headquarters in central Hong Kong.
Occupy Central leader Benny Tai announced the launch of the campaign to the cheers of supporters on September 27.
A statement said that Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung had “failed to deliver on political reform”.
“We demand CY Leung deliver a new report on political reform to the central government, which must adequately reflect the demands of Hong Kong people for democracy,” it said.
“If CY Leung does not respond, we will escalate our actions.”
The movement had originally planned to paralyze the central business district on September 24, but organizers brought forward the start of the protest and changed the location in an apparent bid to harness momentum from student protests outside the government complex.
Student activists had stormed into a courtyard of the complex late on September 26 and scuffled with police using pepper spray.
Occupy Central protesters have issued demands for the Chinese government to scrap rules outlining the election of the next chief executive in 2017
Police said they made scores of arrests including prominent student activist leader Joshua Wong.
However, some students expressed unease that their protest was apparently being taken over by Occupy Central.
The protests at government headquarters followed a week-long strike by thousands of students.
Unrest began when the Chinese government announced that candidates for the 2017 chief executive election would first have to be approved by a nominating committee.
Activists have argued that this does not amount to true democracy.
Many of those who spent the night on the streets wore plastic raincoats and goggles in case police deployed more pepper spray.
Riot police stood nearby.
“The courage of the students and members of the public in their spontaneous decision to stay has touched many Hong Kong people,” Occupy Central said in a statement.
“Yet the government has remained unmoved. As the wheel of time has reached this point, we have decided to arise and act.”
At least 34 people have been injured since the protests began, including four police officers and 11 government staff and guards, authorities said.
One police officer suffered a gash after being poked by one of the umbrellas protesters are using to deflect pepper spray.