Clashes as Hong Kong protesters attempt to break into parliament

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police clashed with pro-democracy demonstrators Wednesday after a small group attempted to break into the city´s legislature, as splits emerged within the movement ahead of the expected clearance of protest camps.

Around 100 police used pepper spray and batons as they battled hundreds of protesters, some in helmets and waving umbrellas — a symbol of their movement — in an angry confrontation that broke out in the early hours. Officers made six arrests.

“Police strongly condemn such acts by the protesters, which disrupted public order,” the police force said in a statement.

The clashes were sparked when a group of around a dozen masked protesters smashed their way through a side entrance to the southern Chinese city´s Legislative Council (LegCo) using metal barricades as battering rams.

“Smash it open then get inside,” one protester was heard saying in footage aired by the local channel.

At least one demonstrator made their way into the building, according to the Daily newspaper.

A regular session of the chamber was cancelled on Wednesday and visitor tours of the complex were suspended, the government said in a statement.

Demonstrators have been camped on three major Hong Kong thoroughfares for seven weeks, demanding free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous city, but public support has ebbed as the weeks pass with little progress.

Beijing insists that candidates for the 2017 vote for the city´s top post must be vetted by a loyalist committee — an arrangement the protesters say will ensure the election of a pro-Beijing stooge.

The authorities moved in for the first time Tuesday to take down some barricades at the main protest camp, which is close to the legislative building in the downtown Admiralty district, after a court granted an order to remove obstructions.