Hong Kong protests: Scuffles break out in Mongkok shopping district

Scuffles between pro-democracy protesters and groups supporting Beijing broke out in a key Hong Kong shopping district on Friday, prompting police to form a human chain between them. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Scuffles between pro-democracy protesters and groups supporting Beijing broke out in a key Hong Kong shopping district on Friday, prompting police to form a human chain between them. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Scuffles between pro-democracy protesters and groups supporting Beijing broke out in a key Hong Kong shopping district on Friday, prompting police to form a human chain between them.

More than 50 police were sent to Mong Kok, just north of the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district on the Kowloon side of the harbour, to break up pushing and shoving between protesters calling for universal suffrage and the pro-Beijing groups trying to pull down supply tents and protest barricades in the area.

Police officers stepped  in to break up the brawls and formed cordons between Occupy Central protesters and people who said that the sit-ins were "destroying" Hong Kong. 

Mostly men, the newcomers tore down the protesters' tents and removed barricades at the intersection of Nathan Road and Argyle Street where the pro-democracy activists and supporters had blockaded for the past five days.

"What are they doing?" yelled one man, referring to the Occupy Central protesters. "They are destroying Hong Kong."

It is not clear if the opponents to the movement were local residents and shopkeepers, or if they were part of any organised groups.

Volunteers said several people were injured but could not confirm a total figure.

Mong Kok, considered one of the most heavily populated places on earth, is hugely popular with tourists from mainland China.

"I have two kids, one is six and one is four," one man shouted in anger at the protesters. "This is not democracy, this is not something we asked for! Hong Kong police are too kind. You are university students, are you going to help me feed my family?"

Tens of thousands of students and activists have taken to the streets of the former British colony in the past week to demand full democracy, including a free voting system when they come to choose a new leader in 2017.

Numbers dwindled considerably at one protest site amid heavy rain and as people returned to work after a two-day holiday.