Hong Kong is bracing for a wave of disruptive protests following China's decision to rule out full democracy for the city.
Police in the city used pepper spray to disperse activists on Monday as China rejected democrats' demands for the right to freely choose the next leader in 2017. China's National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee's decision has sparked an unprecedented unrest in the Asian financial centre with scores of protesters taking to the streets.
According to Reuters, scuffles broke out earlier on Monday during a tense stand-off at the entrance of a centre, where a senior Chinese official was trying to explain Beijing's decision, forcing police to use pepper spray as the scene quickly turned chaotic.
Activists from a movement known as "Occupy Central" have also threatened to shut down Hong Kong's financial district unless China grants them full democracy.
"Occupy Central is an illegal activity. If we give in, it will trigger more illegal activities," Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the NPC Standing Committee said. He arrived earlier from Beijing in the city to explain the decision. But before he could address the crowd, Pro-democracy activists inside the building heckled him, shouting slogans and thwarting him from speaking any further.
The BBC reported citing agencies that as Li approached the lectern, several lawmakers and demonstrators stood up with placards and a banner, chanting: "the central government broke its promise, shameless."
"Hong Kong will become an independent political entity or will change the country's socialist system will not have a political future," Li said in an obscure statement he managed to make amid the chaos.
Around 1,000 people – including legislators, district council chairmen and vice-chairmen, local deputies to the NPC and members of the Chinese People's Consultative Conference – were invited to the two-hour session at AsiaWorld-Expo, the South China Morning Post reported.
The newspaper cited Li as saying that voters would be "confused" if there were too many candidates to choose from. "People may not know what they advocate and what they have achieved before," he was quoted as saying.
The issue of how Hong Kong should choose its next leader has become a bone of contention in the city over the recent months, triggering several protests and large-scale rallies.
China had promised that people in Hong Kong would be able to elect their leader by 2017, but on Sunday, Beijing said that candidates would need support of more than 50 percent of a nominating committee to run in the election, adding that only two or three would be selected.
But activists are angry over concerns that the 'committee' will be heavily tilted in favour of Beijing giving the Chinese government a veto power over candidates.