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Riot gear-clad police clash with Hong Kong protesters

Police officers push protesters out to a nearby park to clear the main roads today outside government headquarters in Hong Kong’s Admiralty. (Associated Press)
Police officers push protesters out to a nearby park to clear the main roads today outside government headquarters in Hong Kong’s Admiralty. (Associated Press)
Associated Press

HONG KONG – Hundreds of Hong Kong police officers moved in early today to clear pro-democracy protesters from a tunnel outside the city government headquarters, clashing with protesters in the worst violence since the demonstrations began more than two weeks ago.

Officers, many of them in riot gear and wielding pepper spray, pushed back the crowd and tore down barricades and removed concrete slabs the protesters used as roadblocks around the underpass.

Reflecting Beijing’s increasing impatience over the demonstrations in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, a front-page editorial today in the People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece, condemned the protests and said “they are doomed to fail.”

The operation came hours after a large group of protesters blockaded the tunnel, expanding their protest zone after being cleared from some other streets. The protesters outnumbered the police officers, who later returned with reinforcements to clear the area.

Police said they had to disperse the protesters because they were disrupting public order and gathering illegally. They arrested 37 men and eight women during the clashes, which police said injured four officers. A police spokesman told local television that none of those arrested was hurt.

“I have to stress here that even though protesters raised their hands in the air, it does not mean it was a peaceful protest,” said the spokesman, Tsui Wai-Hung. He said some protesters kicked the officers and attacked them with their umbrellas.

Officers took away many protesters, their hands tied with plastic cuffs, and pushed others out to a nearby park.

The student-led protesters are now into their third week of occupying key parts of the city to pressure the Asian financial center’s government over curbs recommended by Beijing on democratic reforms.

The protests have been largely peaceful, but turned violent overnight, apparently in response to police stepping up action in the past two days to remove barricades and close in on the main protest zone.

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