Protesters barricade government complex, clash with riot police

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What was supposed to be the end of a week of pro-democracy class boycotts, turned into an all night stand-off between the police and protesters.

About 200 protesters caught police by surprise and stormed into the front court of the Central Government Office building ‘s east wing in Admiralty. More protesters joined in to surround the premise and stop the police from sending in reinforcements. After the night of standoffs between the police and protesters, the police has taken back control of the area. Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong was taken away in handcuffs during the chaos. The police announced ar 8:19 a.m. that 12 men and 1 women were arrested, including two under 18 years old.

The space that was entered, affectionately called “Civic Square” ever since Scholarism occupied the same area during the anti-National Education protests, had been sealed off in July with three metre metal fences amid threats of Occupy Central protests. The police later restored security within the square, fighting off protesters with pepper sprays. Those within the square were kept at bay in several pockets, with most surrounded by a ring of police in the centre. Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) leader Alex Chow Yong-kang, and lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung were among those who broke into the square.

Hundreds, and even thousands, of protesters then began to surround the square and form human chains to block off pathways towards the square, preventing police reinforcements from entering the premise. Throughout early Saturday morning, clashes between protesters and the police occurred on several occasions as the police failed to break through walls formed by rows and rows of protesters. Organisers reminded protesters on numerous occasions to simply raise their hands when facing police and not directly engage in physical contact. Participants generally followed suit while keeping the police from breaking through. Pepper spray was used extensively and those at the forefronts of the walls were affected the most. Water and umbrellas were passed around by protesters to battle the spray.

Protesters standoff against police in riot gear.
Protesters standoff against police in riot gear.

A number of protesters were released from Civic Square after their information was taken. According to Mr. Yung, a second year Chinese University student who was released from one of the groups not in the centre ring, the police have expressed that they will reserve the right to post charges against those caught in the Square. To his knowledge, there were at least 4 students who were high schoolers.

At about 4 a.m. the police appeared to retreat and Police Tactical Unit officers in full riot gear began setting up at several junctures. The two groups entered into stalemate for several hours. As protesters began to tire, the police successfully took hold of the car park pathway next to the Civic Square three hours later and have begun to clear out the area.

The government released a statement at 2:46 a.m., expressing “regret” that protesters stormed the space but did not address students’ request to speak to Chief Executive , C.Y. Leung.