Hong Kong student activists confronted their territory’s chief executive and scuffled with police during the second day of a week-long protest calling for China to allow democratic elections in 2017.
Thousands of university students are boycotting classes all week, as part of a campaign of civil disobedience to pressure Beijing. On Tuesday, about a dozen students pushed past barriers and rushed toward Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who was leaving government headquarters. Police quickly whisked him away and dispersed the protesters.
The incident underscores tensions brought on by Beijing’s decision last month to rule out open nominations for candidates seeking to become Hong Kong’s chief executive. Instead, China has said potential candidates must first be vetted and approved by the majority of a committee stacked with pro-Beijing members.
Pro-democracy protesters say the legislation, passed by Beijing’s rubber-stamp parliament, means China is going back on its promise to allow Hong Kongers to vote for their leaders in 2017. Opposition lawmakers have promised to oppose the bill in Hong Kong’s legislature.
Speaking Tuesday at a press conference, Chief Executive Leung said Hong Kong authorities are paying close attention to the demands of the protesters.
“We deeply care about and we are fully listening to the demands expressed over a period of time by the students of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and the students of various universities on the 2017 universal suffrage,” said Leung.
Activist groups are threatening to soon stage a mass protest to “occupy” Hong Kong’s central financial district, a move that could escalate tensions. But analysts say they expect the protests to have little or no impact on Beijing’s ruling.
China has vowed to continue the so-called “one country, two systems” plan implemented following the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to Beijing in 1997. Under the initiative, Hong Kongers have been allowed more freedom than on the mainland, but many residents say that freedom is eroding.