Students take pro-democracy protest to Hong Kong leader

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 23, 2014 3:42 AM

By Venus Wu and Diana Chan

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Scuffles broke out in Hong Kong on Tuesday as students took their pro-democracy protest to government headquarters and called on the city's chief executive to honor his promise to listen to the people.

The clash came a day after thousands of students gathered on a university campus demanding greater democracy for the former British colony from Communist Party leaders in Beijing and launching a week-long boycott of classes.

About 20 students clashed with police when they pushed barriers and rushed to meet Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying as he stepped out to meet the crowd in the Central business district.

"Obviously, the boycott is posing a moral question to society," Hong Kong Federation of Students leader Alex Chow said after the scuffle. He added that students were sacrificing themselves to make the community aware of the dangers Hong Kong is facing.

Leung did not speak with the students after the scuffle but told reporters that any political reform would need to take into account Beijing's wishes.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland under a formula known as "one country, two systems".

But Beijing last month rejected demands for people to freely choose the city's next leader in 2017, insisting that candidates had to be pre-screened, prompting threats from pro-democracy activists to shut down Central.

"We will pay full attention to the views of all sectors of the community," Leung said. "...all proposals to implement universal suffrage to elect the chief executive in 2017 have to be within the framework of the Basic Law and also the relevant decisions of the National People's Congress."

The Basic Law refers to the mini-constitution for post-1997 Hong Kong which enshrines the one country, two systems formula. The National People's Congress in China's parliament.

This week's student boycott of classes is the latest in a string of civil disobedience campaigns in Hong Kong which has been dogged by a series of rallies over the issue of electoral reform.

Monday's protest was peaceful but the mood at the university was defiant. Many university professors on Tuesday were delivering lectures on democracy, universal suffrage and civil disobedience in a Central park as students sat on the grass.

"When the teachers voluntarily give us lessons here, we can absorb the knowledge better," said second-year Chinese University of Hong Kong student Steve Cheung, who was wearing the protest trademark white shirt and yellow ribbon and seated near a banner reading "Disobey, Boycott."

A handful of secondary students also made an appearance ahead of Friday when they are officially expected to join the protest.

"I am not scared," said one 16-year-old who skipped school. "I am prepared to accept any consequences for my absence."

(Writing by Clare Baldwin; Editing by Nick Macfie)