A small pocket of pro-democracy protesters broke into Hong Kong’s Legislative Council building Tuesday, officials said. Dozens of police officers clad in riot gear used pepper spray to prevent crowds from following the protesters into the building.
“This is a very, very isolated incident. I think it’s very unfortunate and this is something we don’t want to see happen because the movement so far has been very peaceful,” democratic lawmaker Fernando Cheung told Reuters. Cheung said he and a group of other bystanders attempted to stop the individuals who broke into the government building.
The pro-democracy protesters used a nearby metal barricade to batter through a glass door and enter the building. “Several” protesters entered the building through the glass door, witnesses said, but the exact number remains unclear.
Police rushed to the scene to deter others from attempting to follow the protesters into the legislature. Red signs were raised to warn bystanders to avoid the scene.
The clash at the Hong Kong legislature occurred hours after police and bailiffs cleared a protest site of tents and barricades in the city’s Central district. The clearance effort, which began after the owner of a local commercial building and transport groups obtained injunctions against the gathering, was met with a mostly peaceful response. Many protesters removed their own tents while some carried barriers to reinforce Hong Kong’s main protest site. Police warned anyone who remained in that area would be subject to arrest.
Support for the Hong Kong protests, which began in September has waned in recent weeks. More than 67 percent of Hong Kong residents said pro-democracy groups should abandon the streets, according to a poll conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Meanwhile, 43.5 percent of residents said they opposed the continuing protests while just 33.9 percent expressed their support.
Protesters have demanded universal suffrage from the Chinese government, which reneged this year on its promise to allow fully democratic elections in 2017. Instead, Hong Kong residents will choose from candidates pre-screened by Beijing.