Hong Kong police have arrested at least 22 people during a series of protests targeting a senior Chinese official visiting the city, authorities said Tuesday.
The city has been plunged into political crisis after pro-democracy activists vowed to take over the streets of the city’s financial district following Beijing’s refusal to grant citizens full universal suffrage.
In the kind of scenes that would be unthinkable on the mainland, Li Fei, a senior member of China’s rubber stamp parliament, has been dogged by angry demonstrations throughout his visit to the former British colony — including lawmakers heckling him during a speech on Monday.
Li is in town to explain China’s controversial proposal to control who stands for the top post in the city’s next leadership election, a decision that has prompted pro-democracy activists to embark on what they describe as a new “era of civil disobedience”.
Protesters have kept vigil outside Li’s hotel with renewed scuffles breaking out late Monday evening.
Officers made 19 arrests outside the luxury Grand Hyatt Hotel in the Wan Chai district of the city late Monday. Eighteen of the protestors were arrested for “unlawful assembly”, the statement said. The other activist was arrested for obstructing a police officer.
Earlier in the day, police used pepper spray on demonstrators at a convention centre on the outskirts of the city where Li gave a speech that was punctuated by regular interruptions by protesters and pro-democracy lawmakers.
Three people were subsequently arrested for disorder in a public place, police said.
Chinese authorities have demanded Britain drop an inquiry into the progress of democratic reforms in Hong Kong, accusing it of “highly inappropriate” interference in its affairs, the BBC reports.
The broadcaster said it had seen a letter from China’s Foreign Affairs Committee to its British counterpart condemning the probe into the state of democracy since Hong Kong was handed over to Chinese control in 1997.
The report emerged after pro-democracy activists vowed to launch a campaign of civil disobedience over Beijing’s weekend decision to vet candidates for the next leadership election in the former British colony.
Critics have called the restrictive framework a betrayal of Beijing’s promise to award Hong Kong universal suffrage by 2017.
The letter from the foreign affairs committee said the British probe, announced in July, would be a “highly inappropriate act which constitutes interference in China’s internal affairs”.
It urged lawmakers to “act with caution on the issue of Hong Kong, bear in mind the larger picture of China-UK relations and Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and cancel the inquiry on UK-Hong Kong relations.”
The deal that handed Hong Kong back to China guaranteed some freedoms and a semi-autonomous status, and the British foreign secretary reports to parliament on the territory every six months.
The chairman of the British Foreign Affairs Committee, which oversees the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told the BBC he wanted to avoid any misunderstanding.