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Hong Kong police detain protesters, including student leaders

Hong Kong police detain student leaders and others while clearing encampments in the Mong Kok area

Police and other authorities clearing pro-democracy encampments in the Mong Kok area of Hong Kong early Wednesday again clashed with protesters as the movement entered Day 60.

Among the protesters detained by police were Joshua Wong, leader of the high school activist group Scholarism, and Lester Shum, a college junior leading the Hong Kong Federation of Students.

About 6,000 officers had been deployed by Wednesday to try to control the agitated demonstrators, many of whom have camped out in the streets for two months in what has become the longest pro-democracy campaign on Chinese soil.

Wielding batons and pepper spray, police rammed through the entire Occupy zone in the Mong Kok district and dismantled all encampments.

Police warned the demonstrators that they were participating in an “unlawful assembly” and threatened them with immediate arrest.

At least 140 people, including city legislator Tam Tak-chi, had been arrested as of Wednesday morning. Twenty officers reported injuries during intermittent clashes with demonstrators through the night. Legislator and social worker Fernando Cheung said at least 170 demonstrators were injured and treated by volunteer medics.

“Police will take decisive action in order to restore order and public safety in this area,” said Kong Man-keung, senior superintendent of public relations at the Hong Kong police department.

Police said they would continue to carry out orders by court bailiffs to clear the streets.

Meanwhile, student leaders warned that they would consider escalating the tactics of their democracy movement and accused the police of abusing their power.

Under the watch of more than 200 officers, the Mong Kok clearance action started out peacefully Tuesday morning, after many protesters had removed most of their tents and other belongings overnight. However, dozens of others dug in and refused to make way for authorities to remove barricades.

“It isn’t illegal for us to stand our ground here!” one of the protesters shouted through a loudspeaker.

The clearance action came after court orders were sought by public transportation operators, which complained that protester blockades of major thoroughfares in the popular shopping district had hurt business.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, reverted to Chinese rule 17 years ago. Protesters took to the streets in late September, angered over guidelines for Hong Kong’s 2017 election of a new chief executive.

The demonstrators say the framework, issued by authorities in mainland China, does not allow for the free nomination of candidates.

Law is a special correspondent.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

9:25 p.m.: This post has been updated with a new photo and fresh statistics on the number of people arrested and injured.

8:56 p.m.: This post has been updated, including with information on police detaining student leaders.

9:41 a.m.: This post has been updated with reports of police failing to clear the Mong Kok area, protests swelling and student leaders considering escalation.

7:28 a.m.: This post has been updated with the arrest total climbing to 80.

5:06 a.m.: This post has been updated with a report of police using tear gas and pepper spray on protesters. 

3:10 a.m.: This post has been updated with a report of more than 30 arrests.

This post was originally published at 2:20 a.m.

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