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Latest Hong Kong Protests Were Some Of The Most Violent Since Clashes Began

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Hong Kong's 17th week of pro-democracy demonstrations met a forceful response from police.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).

(SOUNDBITE OF BLASTS)

INSKEEP: A thick haze of smoke from fires and tear gas enshrouded Hong Kong's commercial district. Demonstrators, we were told, hurled bricks and flaming bottles at police and into government buildings. Police fired tear gas and water cannons into crowds, who used umbrellas as protection. The running street battles come ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic Of China, which will be a big holiday there. Bonnie Leung is a pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong, and she's on the line. Welcome to the program.

BONNIE LEUNG: Hello, Steve.

INSKEEP: What was it like to be on the streets over the weekend?

LEUNG: Well, I believe it was a horrid for everybody because what we're seeing now is police brutality. Hong Kong people do not afraid of protesters because protesters are trying their best to protect everyone. But the police, they are using excessive violence, they're using tear gas bombs. So Hong Kong people afraid.

INSKEEP: You know, of course, that the police accused the protesters of violence and there have been some violent acts. How do you respond to that?

LEUNG: Well, I would say that if the police would stop the police brutality right now and conduct the independent investigation that Hong Kong people demanded for months, then the tension in Hong Kong society will simply be gone. Or at least everyone would calm down a lot. But what we're seeing now is that my organization, the Civil Human Rights Front, tried out best to organize legal and safe and peaceful protests. We had organized successfully. And again, we want to hold these kind of peaceful march. However, the police banned us again.

And I consider that our organization, by organizing this march, is like a safety valve. When there is a safety valve, public anger can healthily be expressed. But now the police force and also the Hong Kong government deliberately closed this safety valve - means that the public anger will eventually explode. But I think the government do this deliberately to explode the public anger so that they will have more excuses to crack the movement down.

INSKEEP: Now you mentioned the National Day. Of course, that's the anniversary of the People's Republic of China - communist China. As that anniversary approaches, people in the streets over the weekend were chanting. Let's listen to one thing that was being chanted.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Free Hong Kong.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Free Hong Kong.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Democracy now.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Democracy now.

INSKEEP: Free Hong Kong, democracy now - is what people were chanting. Do you believe that that kind of freedom is still possible while Hong Kong is overseen/controlled under the sovereignty of the People's Republic of China?

LEUNG: We understand that Beijing has a lot of redlines. But what Hong Kong people asking for is not greedy because universal suffrage, democracy, human rights, freedom are all promised in the Basic Law and also promised in the Sino-British Joint Declaration that was signed in the '80s.

INSKEEP: You are saying that you want the rule of law and that the law is on your side because these were the terms under which Britain handed Hong Kong back to China.

LEUNG: Correct. All we're fighting for are basic human rights, freedom and rule of law that already enjoyed by many in the world, and also promised in our constitution.

INSKEEP: Bonnie Leung, a pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong, thank you so much.

LEUNG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.