Hundreds of protesters broke through police lines and came close to storming into the WTO's meeting venue Saturday before security forces scattered the violent crowd with tear gas in central Hong Kong. As clouds of tear gas wafted through the air, police locked the doors to the convention center where trade ministers from around the world were in the final hours of a six-day negotiation.
Security forces spent much of the afternoon fighting running street battles with the protesters, including South Korean farmers, Southeast Asian groups and activists from Europe and America. It wasn't immediately clear if there were serious injuries. The demonstrators oppose the World Trade Organization's efforts to open up global markets.
The protesters hit police with bamboo sticks and used a metal barrier to ram a line of officers armed with riot shields. The police fought back with clubs, pepper spray and water cannons that shot water mixed with a chemical that burned the skin and eyes. Police used the tear gas just minutes after Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee went on television and warned the public to stay away from the area.
"The police will take ruthless actions to dispel these illegal actions," Lee warned. The tear gas dispersed the protesters and the police were able to retake the area around the convention center. The demonstrators regrouped and started a massive sit-in, shutting down one of Hong Kong's busiest streets. They beat drums, chanted and waved flags that said, "WTO Kills Farmers."
They tried to storm the WTO venue again an hour later and were repelled with more tear gas. Some of the protesters said the tear gas was unnecessary. "Hong Kong police are violent," said Lee Sang-jeong, a South Korean farmer. "I had no weapon, only my body", reports the AP. N.U.