Scores of protesters may face criminal prosecution after they tried to block Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's car from leaving a school in Tseung Kwan O yesterday, police have warned.
Hours after the incident, Leung said no one should cause a nuisance or break the law when it came to airing their views.
The 20-minute commotion - in which some protesters sat on the road defying police orders - came amid poll findings that public sentiment was at a 10-year low. Twenty people from the League of Social Democrats and the Federation of Students, a group of student unions from eight tertiary institutions, encircled Leung's car, calling for universal suffrage and a universal pension scheme.
"I think the police were accusing us of an unlawful assembly. But we were just protesting at a school. I don't think we need the government or the police's approval," said the federation's secretary general Chan Shu-fai.
In the morning, Leung attended a seminar at the Caritas Institute of Higher Education. As he was leaving, the protesters demanded he talk to them. The scene descended into chaos as they ignored police warnings to leave and were forcibly removed.
Some students claimed the police used violence, with a female student saying an officer grabbed her from behind. Police later issued a statement criticising the protesters for ignoring warnings and jeopardising social order. The protesters could be prosecuted for engaging in unlawful assembly and disturbing public order, the statement said.
Dissatisfaction at Leung's administration is growing, according to a University of Hong Kong poll that studied locals' impression of government performance and feelings about society. Researchers found the public sentiment index fell to 71.9 out of 200 in the middle of this month.
It was a record low since Leung took office last July, and a 10-year low since a 2003 march against national security legislation, when it stood at 63.8 points.
Last night, Leung said there were many channels for people to voice their views, but no one should break the law in doing so.
He said the protesters' behaviour not only affected the order of the venue but could also jeopardise the safety of those at yesterday's meeting.