Schools reopened and civil servants began returning to work in Hong Kong on Monday as student-led pro-democracy protests began shrinking with only a few hundred protesters remaining camped out in the streets, vowing to keep up the pressure until the government respond to their demands.
Nearly 25 protesters, mostly students, refused to move from their site outside the government headquarters and some said they plan on staying for as long as they can.
The subdued scenes have left many wondering whether the protest movement, which has been largely spontaneous, had run its course or whether the students have a clear strategy regarding their next move.
|Counting the Cost - Occupy Hong Kong
"This is definitely not the end - we've never set a Protesters for how long this should go on. It's normal for people to go home, to come and go," said Alex Chow, one of the student leaders.
Early talks between the government and the students have started, but many disagreements remain. Students say they will walk away from the talks as soon as the government further uses force to clear away the remaining protesters.
Hong Kong has been rocked by massive week-long street protests against China's decision to screen all nominees in the first direct elections for Hong Kong's leader, promised by Beijing for 2017. Protesters want open nominations and the resignation of the current chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, who has refused to step down.
Last weekend, police fired tear gas and pepper spray on unarmed protesters, prompting some to defend themselves with umbrellas and homemade masks - an image that gave rise to the movement's unofficial name, the "Umbrella Movement." The police violence garnered public support for the demonstrations, and on both weekends, tens of thousands of protesters had turned out in the streets.
Many remaining protesters were undeterred by the dwindling number of participants, but they admitted they cannot afford to neglect their studies for much longer.
"I think the government is waiting for us to get up. They always say the protests must end and are trying to use violence to stop it," said Jackie Ho, 18. "But I think they just want to scare us."