At least eight people were arrested and four police officers were injured in demonstrations calling for universal suffrage in Hong Kong. Photo by Jerome Favre/EPA-EFE
Jan. 19 (UPI) -- A police-approved protest in Hong Kong ended with clashes between police and demonstrators Sunday.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Hong Kong's Central district for the approved rally demanding universal sufferage but after about an hour and a half police declared the gathering unlawful, saying it showed signs of turning into a march and ordered the crowd to disperse.
Police fired tear gas and used batons on some demonstrators.
Eight people were arrested for possession of extendable batons, hammers and spanners, and clashes escalated after police held a man to the ground.
Ventus Lau Wing-hong, a spokesman for Hong Kong Civil Assembly Team, which organized the rally, was also arrested after police accused him of inciting the crowd and violating rules against demonstrators overcrowding Charter Garden.
Lau said police should bear full responsibility for the day's events, saying a man in plain clothes who identified himself as an officer asked him to end the rally because of clashes and Lau asked that the man show his warrant card.
"The officer refused to display his warrant card until the crowd became too emotional. By then, the situation had become too hard to control," Lau said. "I told him that as long as he showed me his warrant card, I would end the rally."
In a statement, police said two plainclothes officers were surrounded and beaten by protesters.
"At around 4 p.m. today, while two officers of the police community liaison office were liasing with the organizer of a public event in Charter Garden, Central, they were suddenly surrounded and beaten up brutally by a large group of rioters with wooden sticks and other weapons," police said. "They were left with bloody injuries to the head. Such appalling acts are not to be condoned. The police will endeavor to bring the assailants to justice."
Police Senior Superintendent Ng Lok-chun said four officers were injured but did not elaborate on the injuries to the other two.
"This happened in broad daylight, right in front of the event organizer himself," said Ng. "We once again strongly condemn rioters for launching such violent attacks on our officers."
The protests were sparked last June when Hong Kong's government proposed an extradition bill that would allow citizens to be tried in mainland China.
That bill has since been scrapped but protests have extended to other issues including police misconduct during the protests and a call for the ability to directly elect government leaders.