Hong Kong democracy protests: Live Report

Judy Ngao and AFP reporters in Hong Kong

Hong Kong (AFP) - 10:52 GMT - Tensions mounting as masked protesters gather near police - Protester numbers swell as activists dig in for another night of unrest.

AFP reporters say about 1,000 masked protesters gathered outside a police station where senior officers held a press conference defending their liberal use of tear gas against crowds on Sunday night.

Central Hong Kong Paralysed

10:16 GMT - Protests relatively orderly so far - A number of tweets point to the relatively well-mannered and peaceful nature of the protests.

AFP's Jennifer O'Mahony tweets: "Diff to other protests I've covered is commitment to non-violence+criminality in #HongKong. People sleeping next to unguarded $600 phones!"

09:56 GMT - Former HK colonial ruler Britain "concerned" - Britain's Foreign Office says the government is "concerned about the situation in Hong Kong".

Here's the full text of the short statement:

"The British government is concerned about the situation in Hong Kong and is monitoring events carefully.

"It is Britain’s longstanding position, as a co-signatory of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, that Hong Kong’s prosperity and security are underpinned by its fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to demonstrate. It is important for Hong Kong to preserve these rights and for Hong Kong people to exercise them within the law.

"These freedoms are best guaranteed by the transition to universal suffrage. We hope that the upcoming consultation period will produce arrangements which allow a meaningful advance for democracy in Hong Kong, and we encourage all parties to engage constructively in discussion to that end."

09:47 GMT - Protesters stock up on essentials, some HK residents donate - Janet Walker, wife of AFP Photo Editor Richard Brooks, reports that some Hong Kong residents are donating to the protesters, who are stocking up on food and drink, towels, rubbing alcohol and other items.

09:45 GMT - Tidy protesters - Hong Kong writer, director, producer @LawrenceWGray tweets: "The #UmbrellaRevolution of Hong Kong. Only in HK do protestors recycle water bottles and don't even smash a window."

09:24 GMT - Tear gas used 87 times, 41 people injured - police - At a police news conference close to one of the main protest sites, officials say tear gas was used 87 times, AFP's Jennifer O'Mahony reports.

Forty-one people were injured overnight into Monday morning, including 12 police officers, police said.

08:54 GMT - Protests hit financial sector - Hong Kong's shares tumble and the local dollar hit a six-month low against the greenback as pro-democracy protests brought parts of the city to a standstill, with many schools, businesses and banks shut.

Investors are selling major banks including HSBC and Standard Chartered amid fears of a long stand-off, but the the stock exchange said trading would continue as normal.

The Hang Seng Index sank 2.20 percent at one point before paring some of the losses to end 1.90 percent lower.

08:44 GMT - Human Rights Watch: 'political earthquake' in Hong Kong - US-based NGO Human Rights Watch tweets an article, dated Sunday, saying:

"A political earthquake is underway now in Hong Kong. On the streets of Central over the last two days, the tectonic plate of pro-democracy protests has ground up against the plate of police in riot gear, rupturing what had been an uneasy calm in the wake of Beijing making clear its disdain for its treaty promise that Hong Kong would have a 'high degree of autonomy'."

08:27 GMT - China news coverage - According to the US-based website China Digital Times, which monitors Chinese propaganda, authorities have directed websites to "immediately" remove any information related to the Hong Kong protests.

The People's Daily, the Communist Party's flagship newspaper, carried no reports or editorials on the demonstrations, while its overseas edition had one report containing abstracts of statements by party organs on the clashes.

In an editorial, the English-language China Daily newspaper argues that the Occupy Central group had "hijacked the will of the students" by suddenly moving up the date of its protest.

"A group of political extremists made good on their threat to paralyse Hong Kong's central business district by kicking off their illegal 'Occupy Central' campaign on Sunday," the paper writes.

"Realising their failure to summon residents' support for their cause, the 'Occupy' organisers are trying to take advantage of the students' idealism and enthusiasm for promoting democratic advancement in the city," it adds.

07:46 GMT - 'Umbrella Revolution' - The umbrella is fast emerging as the symbol of the demonstrations that have paralysed Hong Kong -- a quintessential image in a city known for its downpours.

As demonstrations turned violent Sunday evening,protesters have wrapped their eyes in clingfilm or donned goggles, wore paper face masks and cowered behind umbrellas to try to protect themselves from the tear gas and pepper spray.

"The umbrella is probably the most striking symbol of this Hong Kong protest. Our demonstrations used to be so peaceful, even pepper spray was very out of the ordinary," says Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy lawmaker.

"Now that pepper spray has become so common, we're having to use umbrellas against it."

"The police have very high-quality shields -- we just have our umbrellas."

The phrase "umbrella revolution" is trending on social media Monday.

07:38 GMT - Taiwan backs democracy fight - Taiwan's president has thrown his weight behind democracy protesters, urging mainland authorities to "listen to the voice of Hong Kong people".

President Ma Ying-jeou says the protesters' call for free elections has his full backing.

"We fully understand and support Hong Kong people in their call for full universal suffrage," Ma tells a gathering of business leaders in Taipei.

"Developments in Hong Kong have drawn the close attention of the world in the past few days. Our government has also been very concerned," he adds.

"We urge the mainland authorities to listen to the voice of Hong Kong people and use peaceful and cautious measures to handle these issues."

07:22 GMT - The number of protesters in Admiralty have swelled from several hundred early this morning to 20,000 people. Many are singing songs and chanting slogans, including "step down Leung Chun-ying".

Organisers are now asking protesters to head towards the Wanchai area as more continue to arrive.

06:19 GMT - The US consulate says it supports Hong Kong's "well established traditions... such as freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press".

But the statement released on Monday added that it did not take sides or support any particular group.

06:51 GMT - Dramatic escalation - Analysts say it is difficult to predict what might happen next.

"The difficulty is that there seems to be no going back for both sides," Surya Deva, a law professor at the City University of Hong Kong, tells AFP. "Which side will blink first is difficult to say, but I think protestors will prevail in the long run."

Michael DeGolyer, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, says the city's thinly-stretched police force are getting weary.

"Their hope is that demonstrators will get tired and quit before the police get too worn out to continue. But tempers will start getting short by tomorrow or Wednesday," he says.

06:19 GMT - Australia solidarity - In Australia, Sydney's Hong Kong House was plastered with notes supporting the thousands of protesters who have gathered in the Asian city to demand full democracy from Beijing.

Hundreds of people also signed a petition in support of those in Hong Kong who have stuck to their demands for full universal suffrage for the former British colony, organisers said.

One protester, Chan Wing-kam, held a sign reading, "I can't keep calm because Hong Kong is dying," outside the building housing the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in the city.

05:49 GMT - Lawyers condemn police - The Hong Kong Bar Association has issued a statement condemning what it calls "excessive" use of force by police against peaceful protesters, many of them young students.

In it, the lawyers criticise Hong Kong police for unleashing repeated volleys of tear gas on unarmed protesters on Sunday night, often without warning.

"The Hong Kong Bar Association is deeply disturbed by, and deplores and condemns, the excessive and disproportionate use of force by the Hong Kong police on demonstrators," it says, adding there was "plainly no justification" for using the gas.

"...The escalation in the use of force by the Hong Kong police in such circumstances was uncalled for, disproportionate, excessive, and had unnecessarily aggravated public feelings of resentment and frustration," the group says in the statement.

05:47 GMT - Office workers lend support - Office workers have been heading down to protest sites on their lunch breaks, taking supplies to hungry demonstrators.

"The cops, they are the ones who did violent things attacking people wihout any weapons. It really stimulates our emotions, so as normal people, we know we need to do something," Maple Leung, 27, a bank customer services worker, told AFP's Aaron Tam.

She had come with a colleague to donate bread and water.

Envis Chan, a 26-year-old fund accountant, told AFP that he planned to return after work.

"The students are standing off peacefully and we are going to support them during our lunch time and after work also.

"The police made a mess here when they fired the tear gas," Chan said.

05:29 GMT - "Oranges, apples, pears, please help, help by eating them," a protester shouts to crowds gathered on Connaught Road, urging demonstrators to help themselves to perishable supplies.

Our reporters on the ground reports seeing the Connaught Road subway exit blocked by fences and umbrellas piled up.

One banner on display at the protest zone says: "We have to save our Hong Kong". Others banners reading "Fight for democracy" and "Support students" cover road signs.

05:24 GMT - Throughout this morning, police presence has been noticeably more subdued with riot police replaced by smaller numbers of officers in everyday uniforms.

At one protest site in Causeway Bay, there was no visible police presence.

But demonstrators have shown little sign of heeding the government's call to leave the streets.

"I'm staying until the end, until we get what we want to get, which is true democracy," 18-year-old high school student Michael Wan tells AFP.

"I know the feeling of tear gas but I know the Hong Kong people do not fear it," he adds.

05:06 GMT - Teachers' strike - The Hong Kong teachers' union is calling for a general strike over the "ruthless force" and "brutal actions" taken by the government and police.

"The HKSAR Government turned a deaf ear and blind eyes to Hong Kong People's genuine appeal, aggravating the resentment and widening the split between the people and the government," says a statement posted on the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union (PTU) website.

"Hong Kong police used ruthless force to expel armless citizens, inflicting injuries on demonstrators with the use of weapons, acting as enemies of the people," it says.

"PTU express severe indignation, seriously condemn the brutal actions by the HKSAR Government and the Police, and resolve to call for a general strike by all teachers in Hong Kong."

04:39 GMT - Riot police - Authorities are withdrawing riot police because protesters "have calmed", a government statement says.

The statement released on the government website this morning, posted only in Chinese, said: "Because citizens gathered on the street have calmed, riot police have been withdrawn."

The statement also calls on protesters "to give up occupied roads as soon as possible for emergency vehicles to pass through and for the partial restoration of public transport services".

04:38 GMT - Protesters are 'doomed' - Demonstrators are "doomed", Chinese state media says in a sharply-worded editorial in the Global Times.

"The radical activists are doomed," the Global Times, which is linked to the ruling Communist Party, wrote in both its Chinese- and English-language editions.

"Opposition groups know well it's impossible to alter the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Hong Kong's political reform plan," the paper wrote.

Beijing has also wiped social media coverage of the mass protests and blocked photo-sharing service Instagram.

04:10 GMT - Protest continues - AFP's Aaron Tam speaks to defiant protesters gathered under the strong midday sun on Connaught Road near Central's Tamar site.

"We have no weapons, we just have an umbrella," 25-year-old nurse Kaley Lau tells Tam, while holding a pink umbrella to shade herself.

"I was not geared up because I thought they would only use pepper spray and I gave all my gear to the front line and when the tear gas came I couldn't respond," Lau says.

"If they start negotiations I think it's a very good thing, but we will stay here until (Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying) promises to do something to make China change its decision."

University teaching assistant Andy Chow adds: "(Leung) tried to say we were the source of the problem in Hong Kong, but we are not the cause."

"Hong Kong has this problem because he does not have the intention to speak with the public," the 25-year-old says.

03:54 GMT - Recycling - Our reporters have reported seeing protesters sorting trash at recycling stations outside government offices and in Admiralty, with separate piles for paper, metal, plastic bottles, plastic bags and batteries. There was even a volunteer sorter to help people out.

03:37 GMT - Upside down flag - AFP's Diane Desobeau reports briefly seeing an upside-down Chinese national flag flying over Admiralty Centre early this morning.

A small group of protesters started cheering and clapping after they noticed the flag fluttering upside down in the wind. The flag stayed up for about an hour, and was then taken down and rectified amid boos.

03:30 GMT - International support - Across the world in cities from San Francisco to London and Mostar in Bosnia, people have gathered to show their support for the Hong Kong protests, with events organised via Facebook under the banner Global Solidarity HK.

Many of those demonstrating are Hong Kongers living overseas, concerned over the future of their home city after Beijing's decision to outlaw free elections in 2017.

In Taiwan, hundreds gathered for a peaceful sit-in in Taipei's Liberty Square on Sunday night in a mark of solidarity with the Hong Kong rallies, while smaller protests were also held in Toronto, Los Angeles and Berlin.

In New York's Chinatown, protesters wearing the yellow ribbons that have become a symbol of the protests chanted pro-democracy slogans and waved signs declaring their support for Hong Kong.

Events are planned throughout the week in cities including Perth, Auckland, Kuala Lumpur and Stockholm, the Global Solidarity HK said on its Twitter feed.

03:13 GMT - Seeking shelter - AFP reporter Aaron Tam says there are about 300 protesters in Central near the Tamar site, many seeking shelter from the harsh sun. Temperatures have now reached 32 degrees Celsius.

"Protester supply depots have an ample supply of water, energy drinks, bread and cooling strips to be applied to the forehead to alleviate heat," Tam reports.

02:57 GMT - Occupy Central, the main organisers of the democracy protests, has released a statement calling for the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

"Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has refused to enter direct dialogue with the public. Instead, he has unilaterally spoken on television to criticize the Occupy Central movement," the statement released on Monday morning says.

"The Occupy Central with Love and Peace (OCLP) movement strongly condemns this, and believe Leung's non-response to the people's demands has driven Hong Kong into a crisis of disorder.

"OCLP strongly demands that Leung Chun-ying resign to create a space for political reform and to defuse the crisis in our society."

02:41 GMT - 'Illegal gathering' - China's state-run Xinhua news agency has described the demonstration in the semi-autonomous city as an "illegal gathering".

In June, the State Council, China's cabinet, reasserted Beijing's control over Hong Kong in a policy "white paper".

And in late August the standing committee of China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress, ruled out public nominations for Hong Kong's next chief executive in 2017, with candidates for the city's top job to be approved instead by a Beijing-backed committee.

China has stationed a military garrison in Hong Kong since it resumed sovereignty over the former British colony in 1997.

02:28 GMT - AFP's Diane Desobeau spoke to protesters who have taken the day off work to take part in the demonstrations.

"I'm a product designer, who is still under probation at my new job. But today I couldn't help but take unpaid leave to support the protest," 27-year-old Mo Chung-yan tells Desobeau in Admiralty on Monday morning.

"Hong Kong belongs to China, but it doesn't mean they can betray the 'one country, two systems' rule made in 1997," she adds. "No matter what the result is, we have to stand up and say no."

Fashion designer Lai On-ying says: "I came here today because I think the city needs people to protect their future.

"It's just a day without money," the 28-year-old adds.

02:18 GMT - Student protests - Students started boycotting classes in the past week, which has seen the central government complex stormed, with pro-democracy group Occupy Central on Sunday bringing forward a mass civil disobedience campaign that had been due to start on October 1.

"We need to strike for freedom and for our democracy. We've come to Mongkok because it's very dangerous now in Central and Admiralty," 20-year-old student Calvin Chan tells AFP last night, referring to the main protest districts.

Hong Kong's leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, says his administration is "resolute in opposing the unlawful occupation actions by Occupy Central".

02:11 GMT - 'Life or death' - Protest leaders last night called on demonstrators to pull back if they felt their lives were threatened.

"This is a matter of life or death. If their lives are threatened they should retreat and save their lives," says professor Chan Kin-man, a co-founder of the Occupy Central group which has thrown its weight behind the protest on Sunday.

Demonstrators have expressed outrage at the city's police but remained defiant.

"We are unarmed, just standing here, there was no warning for the gas," Harry Hung tells AFP after tear gas was fired.

"This is unbelievable. This is a peaceful protest and the police are the ones using violence," says demonstrator Jade Wong. "The level of police violence here is just like mainland China, it was never like this before."

02:06 GMT - Banks closed - The Hong Kong Monetary Authority says 17 banks have closed 29 branches across the city.

Standard Chartered, HSBC Holdings, Bank of East Asia, the Bank of China and CITIC are among those who say their operations are affected by the protests.

01:51 GMT - AFP videographer Agnes Bun says emotions are calm in Admiralty near the Legislative Council. Protesters are seen sleeping under umbrellas, cleaning and waiting. Some are going from group to group offering food and supplies.

01:39 GMT - Travel chaos - The Transport Department says more than 200 bus routes have been suspended or diverted while central sections of the tram network are also down.

AFP's Alex Ogle reports seeing angry confrontations in Mongkok between protesters and members of the public frustrated at the disruption.

The city's underground rail service is largely unaffected but multiple station exits in the island districts of Causeway Bay and Admiralty -- where many international businesses are located -- are closed after protesters block them with barricades. Some exits at Mongkok are also blocked.

01:37 GMT - AFP's Diane Desobeau says protesters on Harcourt Road have been seen picking up trash and sweeping leaves and cigarette butts.

01:32 GMT - Stock market - Hong Kong stocks have slumped 1.18 percent at open after protests over the weekend.

The Hang Seng Index fell 278.90 points to 23,399.51.

Among the index's banks HSBC was down 0.80 percent, Hang Seng Bank was 1.17 percent lower and Standard Chartered lost 1.33 percent.

The stock market was already on a downtrend owing to concerns about the Chinese economy following a string of weak indicators recently. It has lost 6.5 percent since hitting its 2014 high at the start of the month.

01:19 GMT - Businesses affected - The protests have caused massive traffic disruptions in the city, with main throughfares blocked by demonstrators or police cordons.

AFP photographer Alex Ogle says many affected businesses, including banks, jewellery shops and clothing stores, in the Mongkok area have stayed closed.

01:13 GMT - 'Illegal activities' - China, which stations a People's Liberation Army (PLA) garrison in Hong Kong, says it is confident the city's administration can handle the protest.

Beijing "firmly opposes all illegal activities that could undermine rule of law and jeopardise 'social tranquility' and it offers its strong backing" to the Hong Kong government, says a spokesman for China's Hong Kong and Macau affairs office, Xinhua reports.

01:10 GMT - 78 arrested - Officers have so far made 78 arrests for offences ranging from forcible entry into government premises, unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct in public place and assaulting public officers.

Just hours before people started work this morning, the police issued a statement urging protesters to "stay calm, stop charging police cordon lines and occupying the main roads, so that the roads can be re-opened to emergency and public vehicles".

Twenty-six people are being treated for injuries, the hospital authority says.

01:09 GMT - The Hong Kong Stock Exchange has announced that the securities and derivatives markets will continue to operate as normal.

01:03 GMT - Schools closed - The Education Bureau has announced that classes in the Wan Chai, Central and Western districts will be suspended today due to traffic disruptions.

"Due to the disturbance to traffic by Occupy Central, the Education Bureau announced that classes of all kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools and special schools in the Wan Chai, Central and Western districts would be suspended today (September 29). Schools should remain open and arrange staff to look after students who might arrive. The Education Bureau reminds parents and students to place safety as top priority when making any arrangements."

00:46 GMT - 'Umbrella revolution' - Our reporter Diane Desobeau says protesters on Harcourt Road in Admiralty are resting, many using umbrellas to shield themselves from the morning sun.

Protesters have been using umbrellas for two main purposes: protection from the sun and from pepper spray.

Some on social media have been calling this the 'umbrella revolution'.

00:43 GMT - Monday morning - Our reporter Jerome Taylor reports that in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay, around 1,000 protesters remain as the sun rose on Monday morning.

Many lie on the main road trying to catch up on some sleep as they brace themselves for the return of police following their overnight retreat.

Some have used a nearby HSBC branch to sleep with the relative comfort of air conditioning. The protest there stopped busses and trams on a major thoroughfare into the city.

00:31 GMT - Police have repeatedly fired tear gas in clashes with protesters, forcing protest leaders to warn supporters to "retreat and save their lives" if rubber bullets are fired.

This marks a dramatic escalation of rallies in the city, which rarely sees such violence, after a tense week of largely contained student-led demonstrations explodes into mass angry street protests.

00:19 GMT - WELCOME TO AFP'S LIVE REPORT ON ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as tens of thousands head to the streets to rally against Beijing's refusal to grant the city full universal suffrage.

Protesters have defiantly stuck to their demands for universal suffrage after Beijing last month said it would allow elections for the city's next leader in 2017 but will vet the candidates -- a decision branded a "fake democracy".