Hong Kong once again awoke (29 September) to protesters occupying city streets and major roads in the Admiralty and Mongkok districts. The tensions between the protesters and police calmed down as riot police withdrew by early morning not before a series of tear gas attacks on protesters during the middle of the night. As dawn arrived, the protest remained calm and peaceful with supporters bringing supplies to the people on the streets, Most of the city's workers were generally supportive of the protest despite traffic diversions and roadblocks increasing travel times with only a handful of arguments between protesters and workers. A number of schools and businesses around Hong Kong have gone on strike in support of Occupy Central and protest at the police's heavy handed response.
The police response has attracted criticism from lawyers as well as from pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong. Albert Ho, a pro-democratic politician was released without charge by police after 10 hours of detention. The US Consulate General also released a statement endorsing Hong Kong's Basic Law as well as encouraging peace and stability for the special administrative region. Australia also issued a travel warning advising citizens to take normal safety precautions as a result of the Occupy Central protests. Crowds once again increased towards the late afternoon with Occupy Central organisers saying that the Hong People will not retreat unless fired upon. The Hong Kong government has also cancelled the Chinese National Day fireworks scheduled for October 1 due to the protests.
By the evening, the Hong Kong police released a statement maintaining that their response to the protesters was appropriate and that only minimum force was used as a result of breaches to the police cordon. The government's chief secretary, Carrie Lam also reiterated her belief that the government had sincerely listened to Hong Kong people regarding political reforms and denied rumors that she was resigning. Many businesses in Causeway Bay and other parts of Hong Kong closed early due to the ongoing protests. As night fell, the number of protesters increased with organisers urging the crowd to spread out between Central, Admiralty and Wan Chai. Student leader Joshua Wong also commented that the protests had gone beyond their expectations.
Crowds increased as the night furthered with chants calling on the downfall of Leung Chun-ying. The protest has extended from Mongkok to Prince Edward in Kowloon as well. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong chief secretary was forced to quickly correct her statement from the police used appropriate 'violence' to appropriate 'force'. A number of Christian groups have also taken to the streets of Mongkok carrying crosses and prayers in light of the situation. By late in the night, many of the protesters were singing and barbecuing on the streets. The Hong Kong Red Cross from its first aid station in Admiralty reported that there have been over 100 injuries with just a few serious cases requiring hospital treatment. Occupy Central organisers urged protesters to stay put and that October 1 would mark an important point for the movement with an escalation of civil disobedience if their demands were not met.
During the night a car was driven at high speed into the crowd narrowly missing protesters and police. By early morning (30 September) the protesters had rearranged barricades in Mongkok affirming their position as well as to allow some traffic to move. A number of Chinese military aircraft were spotted flying over Victoria Harbour briefly spooking the crowd whom continued to be weary about the People's Liberation Army entering Hong Kong. By mid-morning a number of schools around Wan Chai had gone on strike along with many roads remaining closed to traffic by protesters. In Leung Chun-ying's morning address, he criticised the Occupy Central organisers for not calling on the protesters to disperse as well as reiterating that Occupy Central was illegal as well as that the Hong Kong government was powerless over constitutional matters. Both sides are now expecting that the protests will become a protracted matter that was not expected to be dissolved overnight. By the afternoon, protesters began removing police barricades around Harcourt Road in Admiralty with officers halting this action.
Members of the People's Liberation Army have also been seen watching the protests from their buildings with binoculars. Over in Kowloon, the police's request for the streets to be reopened to traffic were met with chants of 'no compromise'. Acting in response to Leung Chun-ying's claims that the protesters had impeded emergency services, the Occupy Central organisers have set up several 'humanitarian corridors' to allow emergency vehicles into the area. In the evening, the police confirmed that a total of 87 rounds of tear gas had been fired but refused to answer questions on the use of rubber bullets. As night approached, many students and workers continue to join the protests in both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
Update as at 30 September 2014 at 6pm
Over 30,000 people have taken to the streets in Hong Kong despite repeated warnings from the government and police that the Occupy Central protest was an illegal event. Following the surprise announcement in the early hours of Saturday by Benny Tai officially announcing the beginning of Occupy Central, thousands of protesters and supporters have arrived outside the government headquarters in Admiralty on Hong Kong Island. Despite initial concerns involving turnout and resources being denied access to the site by police, the protests grew by the hour forcing police to retreat. Two prominent pro-democracy politicians, Emily Chan and Albert Ho were arrested by police for attempting to bring audio equipment through the police line.
For most of Sunday morning (28 September), the protest was contained to just the immediate areas facing the Hong Kong government buildings. However as the day progressed and news of Occupy Central spread, thousands of demonstrators soon arrived by any means possible and spilled over onto the main arterial roadway, Connaught Central Road and Gloucester Road. With the increased numbers of protesters arriving the initial police line at Harcourt Road was disbanded allowing the protest to merge and take over Connaught Central Road and Admiralty MTR station. By mid- afternoon, police attempts to maintain the protest to a minor level had failed with riot police taking up positions behind the metal barricades on the streets. Remaining firm was Hong Kong's leader Leung Chun-ying whom released a statement during the afternoon reiterating that the Occupy Central moment was illegal and that political reforms were already taking place. However this was poorly received by the crowds as none of their demands were properly addressed.
Most if not all of the protesters continued to remain calm despite concerns that the Occupy Central movement would result in a shift call up of Chinese People's Liberation Army soldiers into the area. A petition was also published online calling on US President Obama to prevent another Tienanmen Square massacre in Hong Kong attracting tens of thousands of signatures. In attempt to clear the area, the police announced that force could be used if the crowds failed to peacefully disperse. Occupy Central organised Benny Tai released a statement saying that there he was overwhelmed to be sudden swelling of support and that there will be more 'democracy banquets' in future. The police failed to clear the area and crowds continue to grow as news of police violence spread among the crowd. Police were filmed deliberately grabbing an elderly man and pepper spraying him in an unprovoked attack as well as snatching many of the umbrellas that have been used as shields.
By nightfall around 6pm, police began firing tear gas at the peaceful protests and crowds which had occupied Connaught Central Road. Several lawyers in Hong Kong quickly condemned the police for using a disproportionate amount of force on the protesters. Despite Occupy Central organisers encouraging the protesters to be prepared with eye goggles and face masks, a number of people required hospital treatment as a result of police firing tear gas often at close range. Reports that the police had also fired rubber bullets and were prepared to use water cannons briefly shook the crowds as police attempted to push the protest down the road. However with every clearing of smoke for a tear gas shot, the crowds and protesters simply returned to their former positions. Outrage also grew on social media and as word spread of the excessive police force being used, more and more people took to the streets. Messages such as calling on the police to release 17 year student activist Joshua Wong as well as for a general workers and police strike were loudly chanted late into the night. Joshua Wong was eventually released without charge and given a personal protection order by Hong Kong's High Court. By 11pm, some of the student associations started encouraging their students to disperse among fears of the police gearing up for a brutal crackdown including the use of live ammunition.
Police cordons, tear gas and banners warning of the use of force if the police line was breached failed to disperse the demonstration which continued to remain peaceful on the protesters part. Some protest organisers stated that further action would be taken if either sides demands were not met by midnight The protesters wanted the resignation of Leung Chun-ying, the reopening of Civic Square as well as the fulfillment of their desires for true electoral reform. As Occupy Central approached its first 24 hours the demonstration showed little sign of dispersing despite several attempts by riot police using tear gas and batons to move the crowd on. The plea from Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying calling on protesters to go home and allow the normal operation of Hong Kong was ignored as the protesters repeated their demands for change.
Early on Monday morning (29 September), several hundred protesters confronted and surrounded police in Mongkok, Kowloon with their hands raised demonstrating a peaceful demonstration and in support of Occupy Central. A general strike was called but many workers were not affected by the protests and went to work. A number of banks suspended operations in Hong Kong's business district and the Heng Seng stock market ran on emergency procedures due to the protests. MTR stations and bus routes in Mongkok were closed by protesters whom barricaded entrances and demanded to meet with a senior government officer. A number of schools in the Wan Chai and Hong Kong Island area have also suspended classes due to the mass demonstrations. So far about 75 people have been admitted to hospital and several arrests made. Many around the world are shocked at the sudden and violent development of protests in Hong Kong.
Update as at 29 September 2014 at 10am
Over 250 people quickly responded to The Concordia Connect's invitation of a solidarity event in light of the recent police crackdown on students and protesters in Hong Kong. Many participants wore black as yellow ribbons were distributed along with a petition as part of the solidarity event. The organisers criticised the Hong Kong government for a lack of genuine political reform and condemned the Hong Kong police for using tear gas on peaceful demonstrators. The rally was held outside Sydney's Town Hall with organisers allowing persons with a connection or interest on the recent developments in Hong Kong to speak. Speakers ranged from an emotional mother concerned about student safety, left-wing Socialists, pro-British colonialists, students and Occupy Central representatives. Given the vast spectrum of opinions presented about the current Occupy Movement in Hong Kong, several members of the crowd booed as the Occupy Central representatives spoke accusing them of hijacking the student demonstration. On several occasions, the Hong Kong police was also subject to verbal cursing for their heavy handed response to the Hong Kong protesters. At the conclusion of the speeches, the crowd moved around the block to the Hong Kong Economic Trade Office next to the Queen Victoria Building where the petition was delivered to a staff member of the Hong Kong Economic Trade Office. Organisers also distributed posted notes to the crowd allowing them to write messages of disgust at the Hong Kong government. The messages and posted notes were then attached to the outside wall of the Hong Kong Economic Trade Office under the watch of a dozen Australian police officers and a security guard. Most of the messages called for peace, freedom and democracy to Hong Kong as well as calls for Hong Kong's leader Leung Chun-ying to resign.
More Photos from the protest:
Watch a video of the Sydney solidarity for genuine universal suffrage in Hong Kong 雪梨聲援香港爭取真普選 event:
Following several days of pro-democracy protests and students strikes, the Occupy Central movement has officially began. Hong Kong awoke to the surprise announcement by Professor Benny Tai that Occupy Central had been brought forward to Sunday ahead of initial plans for October 1st, China’s National Day. Earlier this week, more than a thousand students stormed government quarters in Central opposing the Chinese government’s tightening grip over Hong Kong. Police used pepper spray to control the crowds whom were upset at the refusal of Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong’s leader to meet with them. About fifty protesters scaled over fences and temporarily occupied a Civic Square, a symbolic point of the Hong Kong government complex leading to arrests including that of prominent student activist Joshua Wong of the Scholarism faction. Although there were several injuries and arrests the protest has remained peaceful so far.
Since 1997 when British colonial rule was replaced with Chinese control of Hong Kong, the ‘one country, two systems’ model has been in place. However significant concern among some Hong Kong residents over the lack of a true democracy and the inability to choose their leader has sparked angst over the past decade. Current the Chief Executive Officer, the highest position in Hong Kong is indirectly appointed by the Chinese government and even with the proposed changes tabled by Beijing in 2014, ordinary Hong Kong residents still do not have a proper democracy election or nomination right for the next elections planned for 2017. The leaders of the Occupy Central movement led by Benny Tai had been planning the Occupy Central movement for over 2 years calling for a transparent and universal suffrage electoral system in Hong Kong. Despite statements denouncing the Occupy Central movement as illegal from the Hong Kong government, police as well as some business groups, around 5000 supporters are expected to join in with the current protests.
So far the crowds have remained peaceful with Benny Tai earlier releasing clear guidelines outlining the need for a non-violent demonstration. Thousands of people have followed on from the end of the student protest and have now gathered outside the Hong Kong government’s headquaters. This follows Occupy Central being code-named ‘a democracy banquet’ by organisers as means of encouraging mass participation in the movement. Occupy Central is expected to last at least a few days and hopes to put pressure on the Chinese government to withdraw its recent 2014 electoral policy changes in Hong Kong and demand that Leung Chun-ying resubmit a new political reform report that truly reflects the Hong Kong people’s aspirations for democracy.
The Hong Kong police has been on standby with preparations also being made by China’s paramilitary soldiers to take to the streets in the even that the Occupy Central movement became out of hand. A number of the Occupy Central protesters arrived on the streets dressed with eye goggles and face masks in addition to their backpacks of supplies ready to stand up against police attempts to move the crowd on. A statement released by Occupy Central stated that “the courage of the students and members of the public in their spontaneous decision to stay has touched many Hong Kong people, yet, the government has remained unmoved. As the wheel of time has reached this point, we have decided to arise and act.”
Update as at 28 September 2014 at 10am
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