Oct 3, 2014 6:03 AM

Fights break out between HK protesters, residents

The Associated Press

HONG KONG (AP) Fights broke out Friday as Hong Kong residents and pro-Beijing supporters tried to force pro-democracy activists from the streets they were occupying in a jam-packed shopping area.

The clashes in Kowloon's crowded Mong Kok neighborhood revived the possibility that the weeklong standoff might turn violent despite an attempt by the city's leader to defuse the situation.

Police were struggling to keep order as the two sides tussled in a tense standoff. The visibly older people trying to force pro-democracy protesters out were yelling, shoving and at times trying to drag younger protesters away.

The democracy activists linked arms and held hands as they tried to stand their ground against the huge crowd. At one point, police brought in a stretcher to take away a young man, although it was unclear why.

The police themselves were linking arms in an attempt to keep those agitating to get the area cleared of protesters from pushing into their ranks. The protesters and many onlookers were filming the confrontations; one man tried to grab a video camera from a demonstrator's hand.

The protesters, led mostly by university students, have been in the streets since last Friday, pushing for the Chinese government to reverse its recent decision requiring a mostly pro-Beijing committee approve candidates for Hong Kong's first election to choose the territory's leader in 2017. The demonstrators want open nominations.

The protests are the biggest challenge to Beijing's authority since China took control of the former British colony in 1997.

A front-page editorial Friday in the People's Daily newspaper, published by China's ruling Communist Party, underlined the leadership's unwillingness to negotiate changes to its August decision.

Student protesters had threatened to surround or occupy government buildings if the city's chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, did not step down by Thursday, and police had warned of serious consequences if they did that. Late Thursday, Leung held a news conference to offer the talks, but said "I will not resign."


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