Hong Kong protesters defied tear gas volleys and thronged the streets in their thousands Monday after overnight clashes with police, paralyzing parts of the city as they demanded Beijing allow unfettered elections.
The rare scenes — in which crowds faced down riot police in the worst unrest since the handover to China in 1997 — brought widespread disruption as commuters struggled to make their way into work leaving many schools and businesses shuttered.
Protesters have defiantly stuck to their demands for full universal suffrage after Beijing last month said it would allow elections for the city’s next leader in 2017 but would vet the candidates — a decision branded a “fake democracy”.
As morning broke over the city, thousands of protesters remained in control of at least three major thoroughfares with a significantly reduced police presence after hours of tear gas and running battles.
Many tried to snatch some sleep where they could, fearful that the police might return at any minute.
“We are more confident now, the police don’t have enough officers to close down the districts where there are protests,” Ivan Yeung, a 27-year-old who works in marketing, told AFP after a night camped out in the busy Causeway Bay shopping district.