Violent Clashes as HK Protesters Retake Camp

Violent Clashes as HK Protesters Retake CampViolent Clashes as HK Protesters Retake Camp

Protesters in Hong Kong clashed violently with police Saturday as they reoccupied a protest camp mostly cleared the previous day, leading to multiple arrests and jeopardizing government talks aimed at ending a political stalemate.

Clashes erupted on a busy main road in the bustling Mongkok district. Activists rushed to rebuild makeshift barricades in an area police had opened to traffic 24 hours earlier, while thousands of others staged a sit-in at the protest camp that has existed for nearly three weeks, according to AFP.

Hong Kong police said in a statement released early Saturday they had made 26 arrests in confrontations with a crowd that had swelled to 9,000 people by 3 am (1900 GMT), with 15 officers sustaining injuries in the commotion.

It was the third consecutive night that violence has broken out after a fortnight of comparative calm -- a development that risks sinking only recently resurrected plans to hold talks between student leaders and the city’s Beijing-backed authorities.

The Asian financial hub has been rocked by demonstrations calling for free elections and the resignation of the city’s leader Leung Chun-ying.

Protesters have held sit-ins at three major intersections causing significant disruption to a city usually known for its stability.

China has insisted that Leung’s successor must be vetted by a loyalist committee before standing for election in 2017, a proposal protesters have dismissed as “fake democracy”.

On Thursday the government had made a dramatic U-turn and announced a resumption of talks with the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), one of the groups leading the ongoing protests, after abruptly pulling out of discussions a week earlier.

But questions were soon raised over whether the talks could achieve a substantive breakthrough, with the government unwilling to cede to protesters’ core demands and Leung adamant that police would continue to clear demonstrator-held barricades.

In a statement released shortly before renewed violence broke out in Mongkok, the HKFS called on the government to stick to a timetable of talks slated for next Wednesday.

But it warned that the clearance of the camp earlier in the day had already “damaged the foundation of talks”.