Hong Kong students shelve talks with government after mob attacks

Hong Kong (dpa) – Protest leaders shelved scheduled talks with the Hong Kong government Friday after opponents to pro-democracy demonstrations destroyed a rally site and drove away protesters in Mong Kok, Kowloon.
In a joint statement, organizers condemned the attacks. Later, they said they had lost trust in the government because it had allowed violence to be used against them and therefore suspended the talks.

“They came in a large group in the afternoon and tore down all our tents and ran at us trying to drive us away,” Yu Chun-tung, a 27-year-old protester, told dpa. “That was when police came and put a cordon line between us and them to protect us.”

On both sides of the cordon line, heaving masses of people jostled and engaged in vicious shouting matches as bystanders tried to prevent violence from breaking out.

Protesters and sympathetic bystanders shouted, “We support the students!” while opponents to the protests shouted, “Pack up! Go home! Get out of Mong Kok!”

Those opposed to the rally were visibly older than the protesters, with even some elderly residents joining in to condemn the students for their action.

Protest opponent Ronald To told dpa: “We need to eat, we need to get to work. What they are doing is illegal and has gone on for too long. Don’t our voices count too? Well we don’t agree with them and they need to get off our streets.”

Many of the original protesters had fled the site for fear of violence, according to organizers, but over a hundred others have since arrived in support of the cause.

The leader of the former British colony, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, said at a press conference late Thursday that he had appointed his chief secretary to negotiate with the protesters on behalf of the government.

At the briefing Leung also said he would not step down, one of the protesters’ key demands along with genuine universal suffrage.

Also on Friday, clashes between the two protest camps broke out at Causeway Bay after an organized group of about 30 masked men removing barricades there.

Student protesters shouted at those opposing the demonstrations, accusing them of being hired by the government or Beijing, the South China Morning Post reported, adding that the police turnout was sparse as the battlelines grew increasingly blurred.

Earlier on Friday, pro-democracy demonstrators stopped some civil servants from entering official buildings, and all visits to central government offices (CGO) were postponed or cancelled.

Security staff jostled with protesters as they tried to force open barricades to the government headquarters.

“Staff working in the CGO … should work in accordance with the contingency plans of their respective bureaus or departments,” a government statement said.

A group of protesters blocked one of the few remaining east-west crossings on Hong Kong Island early Friday, reducing the carriageway on Lung Wo Road to two lanes, according to local media reports.

Pan-democratic lawmakers held a press conference to condemn the attacks on protesters and called on police to step up efforts to protect them.

“If police do not effectively intervene to break up the clashes this sets a dangerous precedent … that if people are unhappy with protesters they can attack them with impunity,” said Cyd Ho, vice-chairwoman of the Labor Party.

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