Eight people were arrested in Hong Kong late on Sunday after clashes broke out between protesters and police over the launch of the government's controversial electoral reforms. Authorities reportedly said a total of 11 protesters were taken into custody over the weekend.
Police officers reportedly used pepper spray to disperse dozens of people protesting in the shopping district of Mong Kok and blocking traffic on a major road. The protests began after the government released its long-awaited and highly controversial blueprint for the city’s 2017 leadership election on Wednesday, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). A spokesman reportedly said that five of the people arrested on Sunday were accused of assaulting police.
"One tried to snatch away an officer's baton, and used his leg to attack the officer," the spokesman said, according to AFP. "Another refused to go back to the pedestrian walkway from the road and stopped police from making arrests."
The weekend's protests came nearly seven months after last year's Occupy Central demonstrations where tens of thousands of young protesters took to the streets to demand a legitimate democratic election for the city’s next leadership election.
However, the electoral reforms package, announced last week by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, broadly follows a model proposed by the Chinese government last year, which requires candidates to first be approved by a committee expected to be dominated by Beijing loyalists. And, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has warned that if the plan was voted down, Hong Kong’s reform process would be halted for a long time to come.
Student leaders, who led the pro-democracy protests last September, have reportedly warned they will step up civil disobedience following the announcement of the government's election plan, and suggested the idea of occupying the Legislative Council when the electoral reform bill is debated later this year.