* Police forcibly remove activists from financial district
* More than 500 pro-democracy supporters arrested
* Groups vow further action unless govt grants "true
* Demand for Britain to pressure China
(Adds quote from former top government official)
By James Pomfret and Clare Baldwin
HONG KONG, July 2 Hundreds of Hong Kong police
forcibly removed kicking and screaming protesters from the
Central business district on Wednesday, holdouts of a mass rally
demanding greater democracy from Communist Party rulers in
The pro-democracy march on Tuesday, which organisers said
attracted more than 510,000 people, and a subsequent sit-in by
mainly student groups could be the biggest challenge yet to
China which resumed control over the former British colony on
July 1, 1997.
Many of the more than 1,000 protesters linked arms in a bid
to resist efforts to remove them but they were taken away one at
a time, in some cases by three or four police, as activists
kicked, screamed and punched before being bundled on to buses.
"I have the right to protest. We don't need police
permission," the crowd chanted as they sat sweltering in Hong
Kong's summer heat and humidity.
Some remained defiant even after their arrest.
"Civil disobedience is not a one-time matter. I will come
out to protest again, because it is the only way Hong Kong can
change," said To Chun Ho, who was released on Wednesday without
Activists who refused to leave were taken in buses to the
police training school in Hong Kong. More than 500 people were
arrested, with some charged with participating in an
unauthorised assembly and obstructing police.
It was unclear how long they would be detained. About 50
were released without charge.
"Our purpose is first universal suffrage and second to let
the government respond to Hong Kong citizens' voice for
democracy," said Frank Chio, a representative of the Hong Kong
Federation of Students.
"This is only step one. There will be other steps."
While minor scuffles broke out between police and activists,
the stand-off ended peacefully despite earlier fears of
Retired mainland officials had earlier warned that the local
garrison of the People's Liberation Army might be needed to
restore order in an increasingly restive Hong Kong, but there
was no suggestion they were needed this week as police threw
4,000 staff at the task.
WEAPON OF LAST RESORT
In one of the first moves of what is expected to be a hot
political summer, the demonstrators were demanding greater
democracy in elections for Hong Kong's leader, or chief
executive, in 2017.
They want nominations to be open to everyone. China's
leaders want to ensure only pro-Beijing candidates are on the
Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997 with
wide-ranging autonomy under an agreed formula of "one country,
two systems", allowing protests such as Tuesday's march to take
But China bristles at open dissent, especially over
sensitive matters such as demands for universal suffrage and the
annual June 4 vigil in Hong Kong to mark the crackdown on
pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989.
Such protests, even by one or two people, would be met by
stern punishment elsewhere in China.
Anson Chan, the former head of Hong Kong's civil service who
served both before and after the handover, urged Britain to push
China harder to meet its promises to Hong Kong.
"I would like Britain to speak up and say hey, we are
noticing what is happening, you cannot treat Hong Kong like
this, you cannot walk away from your commitments," she told
Reuters on Wednesday.
"And if you want to see stability and good governance in
Hong Kong, we have to have a chief executive who has
Occupy Central with Love and Peace, the group behind an
unofficial referendum on democracy which drew nearly 800,000
votes, has threatened to lock down Central as part of its
"The voice of the Hong Kong people has been loud and so
clear. If they (Beijing and the Hong Kong government) choose to
ignore it, they will have to pay the price," said Helena Wong of
the Democratic Party.
"Occupy Central is the last resort ... We will keep it as
our last weapon if we do not have true democracy."
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday
his government would do its "utmost" to move towards universal
suffrage and stressed the need for stability. Beijing's Liaison
Office in Hong Kong said China "firmly supported" universal
suffrage for Hong Kong, and "its sincerity and determination is
The overnight protest threatened to disrupt traffic as
people returned to work following a public holiday on Tuesday to
mark the 17th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China.
Some buildings in Central, including HSBC's headquarters,
were ringed by barriers, although these were largely cleared as
(Additional reporting by Nikke Sun; James Zhang; Emily Chung;
Farah Master and Adam Rose; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree;
Editing by Nick Macfie and Jeremy Laurence)