Hong Kong police arrested four men early Wednesday after a small group of pro-democracy protesters broke into the city’s Legislative Council building on Tuesday. Tensions had escalated after authorities enforced a court order to clear tents and barricades erected by demonstrators, who have blocked streets for nearly two months in the city’s Central district.
Nearly 100 riot police were stationed outside the government building in the early hours of Wednesday, and used pepper spray and batons to prevent the crowd from following the protesters into the building. Police said that the protesters, wearing masks and goggles, repeatedly charged at the police barricade and injured three officers, The Associated Press (AP) reported. However, the protest site turned peaceful following the brief clashes with only a few police officers stationed outside the building.
Pro-democracy protesters had used a metal barricade to break through a glass door and enter the government building on Tuesday night before officers pushed them back. However, it was unclear how many people made it inside the building though pro-democracy lawmaker Fernando Cheung reportedly said that he saw one person enter the building.
Protesters who took part in the latest incident, which came after days of calm, had organized their actions through an Internet forum, AP reported. Authorities believe that the mounting frustration of protesters, who have demanded complete freedom from Beijing in electing a chief executive for the city, could have triggered the clashes, AP reported. The first protests began nearly two months ago after Beijing declared the city's residents could only pick a leader from a group approved by the ruling Communist Party of China.
Student leaders distanced themselves from the latest violence. "We can't agree with the reason for taking this action," Joshua Wong, the 18-year-old leader of Scholarism, one of the student groups leading the protests, told AP.
Meanwhile, authorities are expected to enforce another court order to remove barricades from a second protest site in Mong Kok district later this week. When police tried to clear demonstrators from Mong Kok last month, thousands of protesters rushed to a site that had previously seen only a few hundred demonstrators.