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