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More than 500 arrested after big HK democracy rally

By KELVIN CHAN
Associated Press

HONG KONG (AP) -- Hong Kong police arrested more than 500 people who refused to leave a street in the city's financial district Wednesday, a day after tens of thousands of people joined a massive march to demand democracy that's free from China's interference.

The march has become an annual affair held on the anniversary of the day China took over Hong Kong from Britain on June 1, 1997 with the promise to give the city a high degree of autonomy for 50 years. But there is growing unease among its residents - especially the youth - that the Western-style civil liberties they've know all their lives are being eroded as Beijing has increasingly tried to impose its authority over the freewheeling capitalist enclave.

The fears are only going to be heightened following the pre-dawn crackdown by the Hong Kong police, who normally do not have an antagonistic relationship with the people, unlike the security forces in mainland China.

Police said 511 people were arrested for unlawful assembly in the Central business district and preventing police from carrying out their duties. After warnings failed to dislodge them, the police moved in to remove the protesters, who lay down on the street with arms locked, taking them away one by one. The protesters had vowed to stay until 8 a.m., just before the height of rush hour begins, but the police started moving in to evict them at about 3 a.m.

Some left willingly but others were forcibly removed, taken away by officers on both arms or carried away off the ground. One officer stood behind a protester and put an arm around the man's neck as he and other officers tried to pull his hands free, knocking off the eyeglasses of the demonstrator he was clinging to.

Those arrested were mostly students who had decided to occupy Chater Road after taking part in Tuesday's rally, which police said attracted 98,000 people at its peak. Organizers said 510,000 people turned out, the highest estimates in a decade. Hong Kong researchers put the number at between 154,000 and 172,000.

Whatever the numbers, the march and the vehemence of opposition is certain to raise the alarm in Beijing, which tried to keep the news away from people in mainland China.

The Chinese media predictably did not report it, and comments about the protests were deleted from microblogs and other social media. Some users posted comments saying friends' accounts were blocked after they discussed the protests.

A Hong Kong protester, Kennie Chan, lamented that Beijing was less restrained now in exerting its influence over Hong Kong.

"In the past, it seemed like they were doing it step by step, but now, it's obvious that they cannot stand Hong Kong people. We are not obedient anymore, and are resisting more and more," said the 30-year-old, who works as a stage manager.

China's Communist leaders have pledged to allow Hong Kong residents to vote for the leader by 2017. However, they've rejected calls to allow the public to name candidates, insisting instead that they be vetted by a Beijing-friendly committee like the one that has hand-picked all leaders since the handover.

Also, three weeks ago, the Chinese government released a so-called white paper that said Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy is not inherent but is authorized by the central government in Beijing.

Anger against those moves was on display during the march Tuesday when peaceful crowds carried banners and posters urging democracy. They steady throng of people walked in sweltering heat and occasional rain from Victoria Park, through a broad boulevard lined with skyscrapers to the financial district. Thousands of police kept watch and ordered the city's iconic trolleys to shut down along the boulevard to reduce overcrowding.

"After seeing the white paper's content, we should be worried," said Jeff Kwok, 28, an export firm employee at Victoria Park, where six soccer fields and surrounding areas were jammed with people. Beijing is "trying to tell the Hong Kong people that ... Hong Kong is just one of their regions. They're trying to tell us they have absolute power to rule us."

Kwok complained that Beijing doesn't respect the principle of "one country, two systems" under which Hong Kong is allowed to retain control over much of its own affairs.

Ahead of the rally, one group of protesters burned a copy of the white paper outside a ceremony attended by officials to mark the handover.

The protest comes days after nearly 800,000 residents voted in an informal referendum aimed at bolstering support for full democracy. Beijing denounced the referendum as a political farce.

Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader, tried to soothe tensions, saying in a speech that he'll do his "utmost to forge a consensus" on implementing universal suffrage on schedule. But the government later released a statement saying it is unlikely that public nominations will be allowed because it's legally "highly controversial."

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Associated Press video journalists Stephanie Ip and Josie Wong contributed to this report.

---

Follow Kelvin Chan on Twitter at twitter.com/chanman

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Join the discussion

1000|Characters 1000  Characters
beatsynthesis July 01 2014 at 11:56 PM

Unlike liberal fools in the U.S., decent people around the world know that socialism/communism kills.

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6 replies
Buckingham's July 02 2014 at 2:26 AM

God bless all the people of Hong Kong! FIGHT FOR YOUR DEMOCRACY & FREEDOM!

Flag Reply +12 rate up
2 replies
wwchak Buckingham's July 02 2014 at 9:34 AM

majority of the people in Hong Kong do not agree with you. 80,000 is minority in Hong Kong. most do not like this trouble making people on the streets.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
feartheswans wwchak July 02 2014 at 11:02 AM

That is still 10% of the overall population. If this were to happen in New York City with the same percentage, It would be equivalent to the times square turn out on New Years Eve, except not on new years eve but rather its occupy wall street with 830,000 people on a normal Monday morning. Even if you stick with the 80,000 of Hong Kong (Which is only 1% of New York City's Population) it would be enough to grind things to a Halt.

Flag 0 rate up
tiffy3156 Buckingham's July 02 2014 at 11:35 AM

So U.K. want Hong Kong back and that the only reason they stir this $hit up, Brit. are a trouble maker for the world, always try to control other country and human life, if they can't have them they would rather see them destroy with Opium like they did in China, then strip all the good stuff and leave, this Hong Kong people are so easy to control, just give them a candy and they will sell their country to outsider, they are sooo stupid.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
Spud tiffy3156 July 02 2014 at 12:24 PM

Do you realize how ignorant and uneducated you sound? You think the iron hand of China's communism is a better deal? Seriously? If you lived in China madame how far do you think you're comments, posted in the state of freedom, would take you? Not far I'll wager.

Flag 0 rate up
grassyno July 02 2014 at 12:05 AM

This is how communists do things: Once they get control, they never give it up until forced to do so. The UK should have returned Hong Kong to Taiwan, the same non-communist government that leased it to the UK in the first place. But the UK was too scared of China, so they "caved" and threw Hong Kong to the wolves. Let this be a lesson to the liberals in Taiwan who think appeasement with China works. It doesn't. And if this isn't proof enough, ask Tibet about it.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
2 replies
MIKEY'S SCREEN grassyno July 02 2014 at 3:39 AM

Taiwan would have never been able to keep Hong Kong out of Communist China. They are too small and too far away to protect it and they have no navy or army to do so.

The UK, as well as the rest of the majority of the world, recognized Communist China (known as the Mainland) back in late 1971 as the representative of the Chinese people. Hong Kong was returned to Mainland China in 1997, followed by Macau in 1999, as the 100 year lease by the Brits expired.

International law was followed as the Communist won their civil war in 1949 when the non-communist fled to Taiwan.

If the South would have won our civil war and after 65 years of dominance, do you think that there would be an argument about who the US government is? Of course not!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
wwchak grassyno July 02 2014 at 9:10 AM

Hong Kong and Tibet are part of China, it is not up to the brits or anybody to determine the future of Hong Kong.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
meepstein wwchak July 02 2014 at 3:43 PM

Tibet is not part of China. It is a sovereign country taken over by China.

Flag 0 rate up
kendalldek July 02 2014 at 1:13 AM

When unarmed people want Democracy they will simply be ignored and dominated by an armed oppressor. You can rally and talk but, it really means nothing.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
MIKEY'S SCREEN kendalldek July 02 2014 at 3:41 AM

Hmmm!

I've always wondered why the Communist Government never let the "people" own firearms.

Duhhhh...Stupid me, huh?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
farberj MIKEY'S SCREEN July 02 2014 at 9:59 AM

same reason obama and libs want to take away yours and mine.and by the way nazis as well.

Flag +1 rate up
juststeve35 July 01 2014 at 11:58 PM

A Beijing controlled Hong Kong would just be Beijing with a better view...

Those fools think that they can actually control what makes Hong Kong, Hong King without fundamentally changing it!

smh

Imagine there's no countries..
It isn't hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for...
No religion too!
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
Relevant Data juststeve35 July 02 2014 at 12:56 AM

I can imagine that I walk on the Sun's surface and enjoy myself. This is as impossible as the imagination you mention that is just part of a popular song. But I admit that your imagination fits this news article better than mine.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
balaland juststeve35 July 02 2014 at 3:51 AM

You can say i'm a dreamer, but i'm not the only one......

Flag Reply 0 rate up
DANTHALER July 02 2014 at 12:26 AM

Whatever "should" have been done wasn't, if indeed Hong Kong is part of Taiwan, etc. It is what it is TODAY. That's Hong Kong's reality. I can't see Beijing folding to college student or demonstrators. I just can't see them doing that. Yeah, they know how much Hong Kong people don't like it. I don't think they care. It's what BEIJING wants. I hope people are careful because they are going to start busting heads if hey get the nod.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
chuckpitboss DANTHALER July 02 2014 at 1:46 AM

Hong Kong was a British colony and not connected to Taiwan. It was turned over to the Chinese some time ago.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
MIKEY'S SCREEN DANTHALER July 02 2014 at 3:29 AM

China walks a very thin line when it comes to Hong Kong, as the city itself is one of the worlds largest financial district and China needs it to develope and promote their financial needs.

They will not shoot themselves in the left foot in spite of a foot ache in the right foot.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
feartheswans MIKEY'S SCREEN July 02 2014 at 10:54 AM

This is why they even fancy the idea of allowing them the freedom that they do. They also have a similar area in Beijing that is a free-trade economic zone to make foreign business persons feel more comfortable. Its not so much that they want Hong Kong to have all this freedom but rather they feel it necessary to promote trade and growth.

Its like Cleaning up your house only because you have company coming over and hiding everything in your closet.

Flag 0 rate up
Brian Hope July 02 2014 at 12:12 AM

Czar Vladimir and Red China - the new "back-to-the-fifties" Axis of Evil. For THIS Nixon went to Beijing?

Flag Reply +3 rate up
chrissf4529 July 02 2014 at 2:49 PM

We are at a frightful time in world affairs. We are witnessing the formation of a middle eastern country openly voicing it hatred for all countries non Islamic. Japan has reversed its military policy, possibly sensing a threat to it territories. China will start to flex its muscle, first in Hong Kong and then as it realizes it is the most powerful country in the world (both economically and militarily), it will start its expansion. Probably into Japan to start.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
yomkippur888 July 02 2014 at 4:47 AM

No this is how the Triads do things. They run around in packs intimidating others, using fancy terms like "democracy" when there is nothing democratic about them.

These are the amahs who worked for the British and when not turning tricks for the British soldiers they were washing their backsides, selling opium and heroin and trafficking their women the world over.

Hong Kong was never democratic.And anyway Democracy is a Greek concept adapted to many other systems that have become corrupted., It is not Chinese. China has no obligation to adopt a system that has crashed in the US and elsewhere.

In Hong Kong under the British only 18 seats were the result of the one man one vote system. The rest were by appointment of the Governor her majesties servant.

CHina should use the Tien An Mein Square treatment to quell such expressions of western imperialism now trying to take root there.

Asia has a lot to lose with the destruction of China. And China's sovereignty must never be compromised

Flag Reply +2 rate up
malinda.smith1 July 02 2014 at 12:02 PM

Yes, communism sucks.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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