Hong Kong police have fired rounds of tear gas to clear protesters from a road just outside government headquarters where thousands of protesters had gathered.
The police action Sunday came shortly after Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the government will launch a new round of talks on electoral reform. He gave no timeframe for consultations.
Leung spoke as riot police barricaded city streets around government offices to block the huge crowd of protesters who have launched a mass civil disobedience protest to demand genuine democratic reforms for the former British colony.
Organizers of “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” said early Sunday that the occupation of the streets outside government headquarters had officially begun. The mass protest had originally been planned for Wednesday.
The announcement came hours after riot police in Hong Kong arrested dozens of student protesters who forced their way into government headquarters late Saturday.
Police clashed several times throughout the night with hundreds of protesters who forced their way through a security gate or scaled a tall fence to enter a square in the government complex.
Authorities used pepper spray to disperse the protesters and hauled away those who refused to leave the square. Outside the grounds, a large crowd of fellow students chanted at police and demanded that they stop arresting their comrades.
Police said several people suffered minor injuries in the clashes.
Pro-democracy activists were outraged after China last month ruled all candidates for the 2017 vote must be approved by a pro-Beijing committee.
Thousands of university students have stayed away from classes all week to take part in the pro-democracy campaign.
China has vowed to continue the so-called “one country, two systems” plan implemented following the hand-over of Hong Kong from Britain to Beijing in 1997.
Under the initiative, residents of Hong Kong have been allowed more freedom than on the mainland, but many residents say that freedom is eroding.