World

Hong Kong pro-democracy student protest ends in chaos

About 150 young pro-democracy activists forced their way into Hong Kong government headquarters late Friday as a week-long class boycott over Beijing's refusal to allow genuine democratic reforms ended in chaos.

Demonstrations part of ongoing protests over China's rejection of free elections

Protesters donned rudimentary solutions for dealing with police anti-riot tactics, including protecting their eyes from pepper spray. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

About 150 young pro-democracy activists forced their way into Hong Kong government headquarters late Friday as a week-long class boycott over Beijing's refusal to allow genuine democratic reforms ended in chaos.

The student protesters entered a square in the government complex, with some forcing their way through a security gate and others scaling a tall fence. The protesters pushed and shoved with officers, who responded with pepper spray.

Several people, including one police officer, were taken away on stretchers by medical personnel. Police said five men and one woman, between the ages of 16 and 29, were arrested. About 100 protesters surrounded by officers remained in the square.

Hundreds of other protesters, many of whom had spent the strike's final day outside government headquarters, remained on the street outside after police regained control of the square. Thousands of university and college students who had spent the week boycotting classes were joined on Friday by a smaller group of high school students.

The protesters on the street faced down officers in riot gear as the standoff dragged on into early Saturday.

Week-long strike carries on

Organizers said those arrested include Joshua Wong, a 17-year-old leader of the activist group Scholarism, who was dragged away by four officers. Wong, a recent high school graduate, gained prominence two years ago after he organized protests that forced the Hong Kong government to back off plans to introduce a Chinese national education curriculum that some feared was a form of "brainwashing."

Police used pepper spray and detained protesters after more than 100 people stormed Hong Kong's legislative building during pro-democracy protests. (Vincent Yu/Reuters)

The scenes of disorder came at the end of the week-long strike by students demanding China's communist leaders to organize democratic elections in 2017.

Tension over Hong Kong's political future has risen significantly since control of the former British colony passed to China in 1997.

China's communist leaders have promised "universal suffrage" for the semi-autonomous region but last month ruled out letting the public nominate candidates, instead insisting they be screened by a committee of Beijing loyalists that activists have branded "fake democracy."

Hong Kong's young people have become vocal supporters of full democracy in recent years, fuelled by anger over widening inequality that they say dims their future prospects.