Hong Kong police arrested 45 people before dawn Wednesday after clashing with pro-democracy protesters who had barricaded a key road near the offices of the territory’s chief executive.
Officers used pepper spray to remove the demonstrators from the Lung Wo Road underpass and a nearby park. At an early-morning news conference, police said four officers were hurt during the operation, including one who suffered a dislocated shoulder.
Authorities said no protesters were hurt, though demonstrators volunteering at first aid stations reported assisting injured people. Later, local broadcaster TVB aired video of what appeared to be police detaining a man and then beating him in a dark corner.
The clashes were among the most intense between police and protesters since the democracy demonstrations began in late September.
On Tuesday, hundreds of police officers used chain saws and other power tools to remove barricades set up by protesters, continuing authorities’ slow squeeze on demonstrators, who have blocked some streets for more than two weeks.
Several long-occupied roads were reopened Tuesday in the Admiralty and Causeway Bay districts, but protesters were still congregating around government headquarters in Admiralty and holding out in the dense commercial district of Mong Kok.
Demonstrators in the semiautonomous Chinese territory are demanding open nominations for chief executive in 2017 elections; Beijing insists that a pro-Beijing committee vet candidates. Tens of thousands of students, activists and others have taken to the streets to protest that decision.
Leung Chun-ying, the territory’s chief executive, said in an interview with TVB over the weekend that the chance of the government changing its mind on elections was “almost zero” and that the protests had “spun out of control.” He did not rule out the use of force to end them.
Plans for talks between student protest leaders and Leung’s administration were scrapped last week as the two sides failed to agree on ground rules for the discussions.
Pro-democracy protesters are also demanding that Leung resign. A poll released Tuesday by Hong Kong University showed Leung’s approval ratings near an all-time low.
News of the Hong Kong protests has been heavily censored in mainland China. But scores of foreign reporters based in Beijing have been covering the demonstrations.
Chinese authorities on Monday acknowledged detaining a Chinese woman who was working as an assistant for the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit.
The woman apparently was detained upon returning from Hong Kong and has been accused of “committing provocative activities and creating troubles,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
Hong said the woman, Zhang Miao, had not properly registered with government authorities to work as a news assistant for the foreign publication.
Hong Kong’s Legislative Council was to resume its sessions Wednesday after a hiatus. Lawmakers — some supportive of the demonstrations, others opposed — are expected to raise questions about the sit-ins and the response by police and government officials.
Special correspondent Sean Silbert contributed to this report.