Hong Kong has approved funding for a controversial and costly high-speed railway linking Hong Kong and the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou—sparking clashes between police and thousands of protesters outside the territory’s legislative council building.
The rail link will cost 8.6-billion U.S. dollars, and when completed, will give Hong Kong residents a cheaper alternative to air travel, enabling them to reach Shanghai in eight hours and Beijing in 10.
But protestors are most concerned about infringements on democracy, and what will happen to their homes.
[Charlotte Cho, Protester]:
“When the authority made contact with Tsoi Yuen Village, the villagers were not consulted if they would want to move out or how they would be affected. Instead, they offered A, B or C compensation plans to the villagers. This is not a real consultation but a fake one.”
After Hong Kong legislators gave their final vote, 31 to 21 in favor of the high-speed railway, thousands of mostly young protesters tussled with hundreds of police outside the government building.
Police used pepper spray on those attempting to breach police lines into the legislature, while many others surrounded the building to prevent officials and lawmakers from leaving.
Transport secretary Eva Cheng, who had spearheaded the rail link, and was among those trapped in their cars. Police formed a protective ring around her vehicle while trying to clear a path for her to leave.
The government's decision to go ahead with the railway has also mobilized a new push for full democracy among a new generation of young activists in Hong Kong, and many are demanding a more accountable government.
Hong Kong has semiautonomous status under Chinese rule, but its leader and half of its 60-member legislature are selected by interest groups that tend to side with the Chinese regime.