HK leader says protests hatched for more than one year

HK leader says protests hatched for more than one year

Unlawful street assemblies in Hong Kong that halted traffic were described by the city's leader on Wednesday as a plot hatched more than a year ago that went out of control when put into operation.

The idea of pushing the central government to accept an electoral reform package by setting up blockades in the heart of Hong Kong first emerged in January 2013.

The initiator, law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, soon turned the idea into an advocacy group.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told reporters on Wednesday that the "Occupy Central" movement was not initiated by the masses, and spontaneous acts by the protesters indicated that the organizers had no control over the crowds.

"The Occupy Central movement was obviously not conceived by the masses from Day One more than a year ago. Someone plotted it," said Leung. "We can see that they are well organised, supplied with manpower and resources."

Hurting Hong Kong society will not result in a satisfactory scenario for the election of the city's leader by universal suffrage in 2017, Leung said. He appealed for the protest leaders to adopt a pragmatic and rational attitude for talks on reform.

Leung's remarks came after Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government liaison office in Hong Kong, described the street protests as a "socio-political event" that challenged Beijing's authority.

Zhang told the city's legislators on Tuesday that the central government is deeply concerned about the situation in Hong Kong, as the protests have jeopardized the city's rule of law, relations with the mainland and its global reputation.

Soon after Zhang's closed-door exchanges with lawmakers, hundreds of protesters halted traffic on a road running across Hong Kong Island. At one point, angry mobs surrounded a thin line of police officers.

But the protest only lasted for four hours. Dozens of riot police using pepper spray pushed protesters out of a tunnel near the government headquarters. Officers arrested 37 men and eight women amid the chaos.

Twenty injuries had been reported by Tuesday afternoon, including five police officers. The duties of seven officers were reassigned after they allegedly beat a protester.

Police made no new attempts on Wednesday to break up the blockades.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said that as the situation remains volatile, the authorities are focusing on partially restoring traffic flow.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said the administration is seeking a resumption of dialogue with the student leaders, with the help of a "well-respected" middleman.

Chairman of the Cheung Kong Holdings conglomerate Li Ka-shing, who is Asia's wealthiest man, appealed to the young activists to calm down and go home.

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