Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests grow amid sit-in

Story highlights

  • Weeklong student protests grows into larger movement
  • Organizers say 60,000 protesters turn out for pro-democracy rally
  • Authorities say 34 people have been treated in hospital for protest-related injuries
  • Students want to pressure China into giving Hong Kong full universal voting rights
Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong that began Monday with students boycotting classes and demanding less involvement of China's Communist Party in Hong Kong's future continued Sunday and are growing into a wider movement.
Organizers said some 60,000 protesters turned out for a Saturday night rally and police tried to block them from joining other protesters that are part of a sit-in outside government headquarters.
They're protesting new election rules issued by the Chinese government in August that say candidates for the top posts in Hong Kong must be selected by a committee perceived to serve the Chinese Communist Party.
The students want to pressure China into giving Hong Kong full voting rights and the ability to choose candidates independent of Beijing.
Some protesters wore rain jackets, goggles and umbrellas in anticipation of the police's use of pepper spray as tension rose following more than 70 arrests of student activists.
Organizers said they would continue to occupy the area outside government headquarters indefinitely until the students are released. They want to speak directly to Hong Kong's leader, Chief Executive C.Y. Leung.
Hong Kong authorities said 34 people had been treated in hospital for injuries suffered in the protests.
Student's home seached
Those arrested include 17-year-old protest leader Joshua Wong, whose parents issued a statement saying that their son's lawyer "can see no legal justification for this continued detention given the nature of the allegations, his young age and his clean record."
Grace and Roger Wong said they can only conclude that their son is being detained for political reasons and call his arrest " political persecution."
According to protest organizers, police spent two hours searching Wong's dorm room Saturday. They confiscated his computer, two SD cards, his phone and a thumb drive, they said.
Amnesty International issued a statement Sunday calling for the release of the activists and condemned violence against protesters Friday night, when police used pepper spray.
A government statement issued this week urged teachers and parents not to let minors take part in the rallies, saying their future opportunities could be affected.
Teachers were also warned that if they are convicted "as a result of participating in unlawful activities, they will have to bear their legal responsibilities as well as professional- and career-related consequences."
Other protest group joins in
Leaders of Hong Kong's Occupy Central movement, which had planned a separate mass protest in the city's financial district over voting rights, decided Sunday to join the student movement.
Co-founder Benny Tai said he would stay with the students until the last minute and was prepared to be arrested.
"We are willing to pay the price for civil disobedience," he said.
Since the handover from Britain to China 17 years ago, the people of Hong Kong have been granted a wide range of civil liberties and a measure of autonomy under the governing principle known as "one country, two systems."
But many believe that way of life is under threat as Beijing affirms its political authority over Hong Kong.
Although most are not old enough to drive in the former British colony, the students' political vision is clear.
"The future of Hong Kong is ours," said 16-year-old student Phoebe Leung.
"I can't change Hong Kong, but if all of us are here ... we may change Hong Kong's future."