Hong Kong protests: Mong Kok ground retaken from police

Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong have retaken streets in the Mong Kok district cleared by the authorities just a few hours earlier.

Their victory came after clashes with riot police using batons and pepper spray.

Wielding open umbrellas as their only weapons, an estimated 9,000 demonstrators pushed back police lines.

They managed to retake territory south of a major intersection, stopping traffic in both directions.

The protesters are angry about China’s restrictions on who can stand in Hong Kong’s next leadership election in 2017.

Earlier, police said they had arrested 26 people for charges including assault during clashes on Friday evening. Fifteen police officers were injured in the clashes, they added.

Several protesters were seen being knocked to the ground during the latest scuffles, AP news agency reported.

Protest group Occupy Central issued a statement (in Chinese) saying that the clearance operations ordered by the government had “triggered a new wave of occupations and worsened relations between police and citizens”.

The Mong Kok camp in Kowloon is an offshoot of the original protest site around government offices in Admiralty on Hong Kong Island.

Protesters and police are also congregating at Admiralty, although there are no reports of clashes.

‘Talks scheduled’

Earlier on Friday, Alex Chow from the Federation of Students said both his group and the government had agreed to meet next Tuesday, in talks that would be broadcast live on radio, the South China Morning Post reported.

Hong Kong leader CY Leung said on Thursday that the government was ready for talks, but China would not retract its decision to vet candidates for the 2017 elections.

The last time talks were scheduled they were cancelled by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who said it was impossible to have constructive dialogue while the occupation of city streets continued.

Protester numbers have dropped off since the start of the month, when tens of thousands were on the streets. But tensions escalated this week, with violent clashes as police cleared an underpass on Lung Wo Road near the chief executive’s offices.

A video showing plainclothes police officers beating an unarmed protester, who is a member of the pro-democracy Civic Party, also sparked outrage.

Police said seven officers had been suspended pending an investigation.