Rubber Bullet Fears Amid Protests In Hong Kong

Protesters have been urged to leave demonstrations in central Hong Kong over fears police could use rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

Earlier in the day, officers fired tear gas to try to clear a road that was blocked by thousands of pro-democracy protesters.

Activists fled several hundred metres down Harcourt Road in the government district amid chaotic scenes, with protesters screaming “shame” at officers.

But many activists came right back to continue their protests in the Admiralty area.

Several scuffles broke out between riot police and demonstrators who were angered by the use of tear gas, which is rare in Hong Kong.

An elderly woman was seen being carried away by protesters.

Police had also used hand-held pepper spray aimed at dispersing the activists – but without success – and they warned greater force could be carried out.

A student group has now called on its supporters to withdraw from the demonstrations amid the rubber bullet fears.

The movement to occupy central Hong Kong, in protest at China’s interference in the former British colony, had begun three days ahead of schedule with many protesters gathering overnight.

The leader of ‘Occupy Central’, Benny Tai, had planned to bring the heart of Hong Kong to a standstill this coming Wednesday – National Day.

But he has taken advantage of a separate student protest which has been gathering pace through the week.

Although ‘Occupy Central’ and the student protests are separate movements, their motivation is the same.

They are calling for the Chinese central government to stop interfering with Hong Kong politics.

They want China to allow the people of Hong Kong to choose their own leaders: one person, one vote.

On Saturday, more than 60 of the student protesters were arrested after they entered a government area.

Overnight, the new protesters gathered wearing masks and ponchos in an effort to counter the pepper spray.

Last month, the Communist Party’s top political body ruled on changes to the political system in the territory, once a British colony but now a semi-autonomous part of China.

The ruling said that while Hong Kongers could choose their next leader, or Chief Executive, in 2017, they must select from candidates picked by Beijing.

The chosen candidates must declare their “love” for China and its Communist system.

Political protests are banned across mainland China but under the agreement of the 1997 handover from Britain to China, Hong Kong was given autonomy.

That autonomy allows Hong Kong an independent legal and political framework: ‘one country, two systems’.

Under this agreement, protests can take place in Hong Kong.

However, in the 17 years since the handover, there has never been such a large call for the central government in Beijing to back off.

It is not yet clear how the protest will disrupt the city, Asia’s financial hub.

Reports suggest that 30 people have suffered minor injuries over the past few days in clashes with the authorities.

News of the protests has been censored on the Chinese mainland with little or no mention of it on mainstream newspapers and TV stations across China.