Hong Kong police fired tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets on pro-democracy protesters after a sit-in that began Friday escalated into demonstrations involving as many as tens of thousands of people over the weekend. Cheung Tak-keung, assistant commissioner of police for operations, said in a press conference Monday that 41 people had been injured, including three officers. Thousands of protesters remained in the streets of Hong Kong on Monday, blocking traffic and effectively shutting down Hong Kong’s business center. Holding signs saying “Disperse or We Fire,” cops threw cans of tear gas into the crows in the Admiralty district near the main government offices on Sunday. Police say they used tear gas 87 times during clashes with protesters throughout the day. Some banks and schools were closed on Monday, though the government said riot police were being withdrawn because people had “mostly calmed down.” Others suggest the withdrawal shows Hong Kong officers have lost control over the protests.
Hong Kong students and Occupy Central, which is one of the lead protest groups, have been leading pro-democracy demonstrations after China announced Hong Kong’s 2017 leadership election candidates would have to be screened by a separate committee. Unsurprisingly, China has condemned the protests. “The central government adamantly opposes the various illegal acts that have occurred in Hong Kong, damaging rule of law and social order,” a Chinese government spokesman said to state-run Xinhua news agency. “If the Hong Kong police cannot disperse the crowd, there is the possibility of the PLA getting into the action,” said Willy Lam, a Chinese politics expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.