Pro-government groups have continued destroying protest camps in Hong Kong. A long Friday night of clashes reportedly injured at least 18 people.
Skirmishes broke out Saturday between about 100 people in Hong Kong's densely populated Mong Kok neighborhood, with counter-protesters trying to take down barriers constructed by pro-democracy demonstrators.
Protesters aligned with the Occupy Central movement have accused police of not intervening to stop a mob of residents from assaulting them on Friday, as well.
"The government and police turned a blind eye to violent acts by the triads targeting peaceful Occupy protesters," the Hong Kong Federation of Students wrote Friday.
On Thursday, Beijing-backed Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying offered talks with protesters, with the students initially accepting the invitation. However, protest leaders have called off the planned talks with the government, citing its failure to curb the attacks, which began on Friday afternoon in working-class Mong Kok, across Victoria Harbor from the activists' main camp. The assaults left at least 12 civilians and six officers injured, district commander Kwok Pak-chung said.
'Sexual assault, harassment'
The human rights organization Amnesty International has accused those who have attacked the democracy movement of using sexual violence. The group also accused police of "failing in their duty" to protect protesters from violence on Friday evening.
"Women and girls were among those targeted, including incidents of sexual assault, harassment and intimidation," Amnesty announced in a statement.
Protesters want fewer restrictions on Hong Kong's next elections in 2017, which Beijing said would be the first with "universal suffrage," key to the "one country, two systems" principle agreed when colonial power Britain relinquished control of the financial hub in 1997. China's plans to vet any would-be candidates for the job currently held by Leung have prompted protesters to call the upcoming vote "fake democracy."
An editorial Saturday in the mainland mouthpiece People's Daily warned that protests could result in "severely disrupted social order, huge economic losses and possible casualties." The editorial offered "no room for concessions" on candidate screening by Beijing, calling Hong Kong "directly under the jurisdiction of the central government; it is not a country or an independent political entity."
Occupy supporters, out in force since September 26, have vowed to fight until their goals of universal suffrage and open nominations of candidates are achieved. They are also calling for the maintenance of Hong Kong's legal system and civil liberties, which stand in stark contrast to those in place on the mainland. The standoff with student activists, established protest groups and ordinary Hong Kongers has presented the mainland with one of its biggest political challenges since the government violently crushed pro-democracy protests in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989.
mkg/tj (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)