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
On a journey of discovery