HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters today held a peace rally in central Hong Kong in defiance of recent attacks against their ranks, as students re-opened the door for talks with government over their political reform demands.
Hong Kong's main student union, which had called off the negotiations saying police failed to act over the violent clashes, said it would meet with the government on the condition it responded over the police handling of the ugly scenes yesterday.
"The government should show commitment in investigating the incident, investigate why the police were so lax in enforcement, accusations of helping criminals and to give an explanation to the public as soon as possible," the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) said.
The city authorities today strongly denied using paid thugs to harass the protesters.
"As long as the government responds to the above, the students are willing to talk again," HKFS said.
Pro-democracy protesters have taken to Hong Kong's streets to demand the right to nominate who can run as their next leader in 2017 elections. Beijing insists only candidates it has approved will be able to stand.
Huge crowds streamed into the main protest site opposite the besieged government headquarters for a seventh night of their campaign in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Tensions appeared to be ratcheting up early Sunday with reports of fresh clashes with police using batons in Mong Kok, a densely packed working-class district that saw some of the worst scenes of violence the previous night.
Two of Hong Kong's busiest shopping districts descended into chaos yesterday as angry opponents clashed with protesters, tearing down their tents and barricades.
Police said several suspected triad members were among those arrested after yesterday's clashes, but the city's security chief angrily denied allegations that the government had called on paid thugs to break up the protests.