Hong Kong Protests Turn Violent As Police Use Tear Gas

The Occupy Central movement turned out early to protest Chinese influence in Hong Kong's elections, following mass student demonstrations.

Hong Kong Protests Turn Violent As Police Use Tear Gas
Getty Images / Lam Yik Fei

What was meant to a peaceful protest in Hong Kong has turned violent. Pro-democracy demonstrators were met Sunday with tear gas from police and a harsh condemnation from authorities Beijing

Tens of thousands of people are staging a sit-in outside Hong Kong's government headquarters, armed with umbrellas, goggles and plastic wrap to combat police pepper spray. Protesters blocked city streets with metal barricades in preparation for a potential police crackdown. (Video via Al Jazeera)

The demonstrators are campaigning for universal suffrage and free elections, and protesting a recent power grab by the central government in Beijing. In August, China declared Hong Kong could only elect a leader who had been screened by the country's Communist government.

The protest group known as Occupy Central initially planned a massive demonstration for Oct. 1 — but student protesters seized the momentum Friday night after they broke into a government compound. Police arrested dozens of people, including several student leaders, while breaking up the protest.

Student support for the demonstrations swelled after Friday's clashes, leading Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai to declare an early start to the mass sit-in.

He told the South China Morning Post"We just need to respond to the very enthusiastic citizens. ... We are touched by the works of students."

But it's worth noting some people in Hong Kong have been opposed to the student movement, arguing it will hurt the region financially and cause unwanted trouble with Beijing. (Video via CNN)

Beijing called the protests “illegal” in a statement carried by China’s state-run news agency Sunday. 

Hong Kong was first guaranteed universal suffrage when Britain gave the region back to China in 1997. The current government plans to hold Hong Kong's elections — with Beijing-approved candidates — in 2017.

This video contains images from Getty Images.