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Demonstrators jump into the sea to protest
By Cecilia Lo (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-14 06:20

HONG KONG: Protesters against the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) clashed yesterday with the police during their rally near the Wan Chai Sports Ground.

Police said nine were injured, including two police officers. Demonstrators claimed police had arrested several of their members.

Protesters started off in the morning with a relatively peaceful rally in Victoria Park, with more than 4,500 joining the procession that proceeded from Causeway Bay to the protest area in Wan Chai, shouting "Down down WTO!" and "No Justice No Trade!"

Yi Hoon-chong, manager of the Korea Fisheries Association, said there were almost 2,000 demonstrators from the Republic of Korea (ROK), who have come to voice their message that opening markets and eliminating tariffs would mean killing them.

Gi-soo Park, representative of the Nongso Agricultural Co-operative said the WTO would also affect individual farmers like them, whose average farm size of 145 hectares.

"It is hard for us to compete with the international price," said Park.

After arriving in the designated protest area, some protesters, mostly from the ROK, jumped into the sea and the situation started to get out of hand.

There were more than 100 in the sea at that time, according to police, but police officers and firemen on boats patrolling the waters off the shore did not stop them.

ROK farmers also pushed a wooden structure weighing several hundred pounds towards the conference venue. When stopped by the police, they tried to burn the structure, but police soon extinguished the fire.

After protestors charged at police officers, reinforcement forces in full riot gear took over. To fend off continuous attacks from protesters, police had to use OC foam (similar to pepper spray).

Those sprayed in the eyes had their eyes washed by bottled water immediately by their colleagues. Among them was legislative councillor Leung Kwok-hung.

"Hong Kong citizens do not allow violent acts," said Albert Ma, Chief Superintendent of the Police Public Relations Branch. "All activities have to be peaceful and orderly and they should not cross the line."

He said police used minimum force to control the situation.

(China Daily 12/14/2005 page2)

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