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Pro-Democracy Protest Grows in Hong Kong

Thousands of Hong Kong protesters have ignored government calls to leave the streets to permit the return of public transport services.

In a statement, the government called on demonstrators to leave protest areas peacefully. The statement also said that Hong Kong officials were removing riot police from city streets because pro-democracy protests appeared to be calming down.

But hours later, huge crowds of demonstrators remained on the streets. The protests blocked some roads on Monday. Major businesses were closed.

The U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong released a statement calling for “all sides to refrain from actions that would further escalate tensions, to exercise restraint, and to express views on Hong Kong's political future in a peaceful manner.”

The foreign office of the United Kingdom said Monday it is carefully monitoring events and "expresses concern about the situation in Hong Kong and encourages all parties to engage in constructive criticism."

Police clashed with the protestors overnight when they tried to end the unrest that had spread over the weekend. Some officers used pepper spray, tear gas and sticks against protesters. Several people were injured in the clashes.

One student protester called on the government to talk to the people of Hong Kong about their concerns.

“I really hope that the government can come out to face the people. We have experienced five days of boycott of classes and two nights occupying here. We are not here to make disorder, but to urge the government to face the people and students,” said Jamma, a student protester.

The clashes came shortly after Hong Kong’s top official said the government plans to launch new talks on electoral reform. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying gave no date for those discussions.

The protesters have been calling for less political involvement in Hong Kong from China’s central government. Pro-democracy activists were angered after the government ruled that only three candidates could compete in the 2017 vote for chief executive. All three must be approved by a pro-China committee.

Protestors have been threatening to hold large demonstrations for months.

Michael DeGolyer is a professor with Hong Kong Baptist University. He told VOA that a group called the “Occupy Central” movement announced plans to expand demonstrations on Sunday.

Professor DeGolyer says students are demonstrating on the unrealistic hope that the central government will back down. He says that will not happen.

“The central government is very concerned about populism. You have to remember in the history of China that the Cultural Revolution was basically a populist movement driven by students. And they see the threat of populism as one of the, the biggest threats to both governance and the Communist Party, because, you know, Mao Zedong dismantled both the civil service and the Communist Party. And so the fear of populism is a deeply-ingrained one in the entire government and Communist Party.”

On Monday, China’s foreign ministry said it opposes any external, or foreign, force supporting what it called "illegal movements," such as Occupy Central.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

This story was reported by VOA’s News Division. George Grow wrote it for Learning English. Christopher Cruise edited it.


Words in This Story

government – adj., relating to a system of governing; the organization of people that rules a country, or city.

protest – adj., speaking against, object

unrest – n., protest, clashes

political – adj., relating to the activities of government

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