By Madalena Araujo, CNN
The Chairwoman of Hong Kong's Democratic Party urged pro-democracy protesters on Monday to “exercise maximum restraint” following hours of violent clashes with the police as they tried to encircle government headquarters.
“I think people are getting frustrated because we do not get any response from Beijing and from the Hong Kong government. But the students want to escalate the action and their confrontation with the police, and [this is] resulting in police brutality,” Emily Lau told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“But I hope the people will exercise maximum restraint. We want to conduct the struggle in a peaceful and non-violent way."
"I think they are beginning to realize that [if] you keep escalating the action; you keep having confrontation with the police, you will lose the support of the Hong Kong people and the international community.”
The renewed violence came after the student leaders’ call for an escalation of their civil disobedience actions, a move that marked a shift in the so-far largely peaceful “Umbrella Revolution.”
As student groups turned out in their thousands and surrounded government buildings, the police responded with pepper spray and used batons to force them back. Hong Kong police said they made at least 40 arrests before dawn on Monday in the city’s Admiralty district.
“We don't want [the protests] to flare up. And the last thing we want is a Tiananmen in Hong Kong.”
Lau thinks the activists’ movement should now head in another direction. “It’s time for us to see that if we've been blocking the roads for such a long time, it's now to continue the movement in another way. We can go to the districts, explain this to the people. Why is it that we are fighting so hard?”
Demonstrators want the Chinese government to let Hong Kong select its next chief executive in the 2017 election, without restrictions on who can become a candidate.
Lau, who is also a Member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, told Amanpour that they will keep up the action until Beijing meets what she sees as a “very reasonable” demand.
“Beijing has made a pledge to the Hong Kong people and to the international community that we will be able to elect the head of government here in 2017. And we are not going to allow Beijing to wriggle out of it.”
She realizes, however, that asking “the Communist regime in Beijing” for democracy is like, as the Chinese saying goes, asking “a Chinese monk… for a comb, because he would never comb his hair. He's got no hair.”
“But anyway, this time around, the central government has given us a promise that we can elect a chief executive by universal suffrage in 2017. That's why we are asking Beijing to keep its promise. And we don't want a fake democracy. We want an election in which the people can have genuine choice.”
On Sunday, Sir Richard Ottaway, who chairs the British parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said that he and other British lawmakers were informed by the Chinese Embassy that they would be blocked by China from travelling to Hong Kong to assess the political situation.
Lau said the decision is “absolutely ridiculous” and added that “it's really so disgraceful for Beijing to tell the MPs that they can't come.”
However, she warned, “I hope the MPs will have some sense of decency - OK, they can come; they cannot bash into Hong Kong, but I hope they will conduct a good investigation of how Hong Kong has developed since the change of sovereignty and come up with a report that can make the British people hold their heads up high, showing they have discharged their responsibility for Hong Kong, because they ran Hong Kong for 1.5 centuries and handed us over to China without giving us democracy, without protection for our human rights.”
“They have a moral and political responsibility.”