Thousands gather in fresh Hong Kong protest

Protesters pour into major thoroughfare a day after government called off talks with student leaders.

Students and activists are demanding a greater say in choosing the city's leader [EPA]
Students and activists are demanding a greater say in choosing the city's leader [EPA]

Thousands of protesters have poured into a main road in Hong Kong, reviving a civil disobedience movement a day after the government called off talks with student leaders.

Crowds filling up the Admiralty area late on Friday near the government headquarters chanted “Our Hong Kong, Ours to Save”.

Many of those gathered near a stage in the main protest zone were young people, including high school students in uniforms, but there were also office workers who came straight from work.

“We don’t want to see a government that treats people this way, where thousands can protest for weeks on the street and not get any response at all,” said Natalie Or, 16.

“Maybe they think if they keep delaying people will disperse on their own, but my friends and I aren’t going anywhere. I’ll come for months, I’ll stay for a year, I’ll stay for as long as it takes,” she added.

The resurgence came after a week that saw flagging support for the protests, which had blocked off main roads and streets in three of Hong Kong’s busiest areas for two weeks. Some of the roads have reopened to traffic, but a main thoroughfare through the heart of the business district remains occupied.

Field notes:
Divya Gopalan, Hong Kong
Thousands of people have heeded the rallying call from student leaders. They started trickling into what’s now being called “Umbrella Square” after the work day ended at 6 pm. They were asked to gather on the four-lane boulevard in Admiralty, which they have been occupying for nearly two weeks.
The start of the rally was the time when student leaders should have been holding talks with the deputy Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
But the meeting was called off, after Lam said it was not possible to negotiate with the protest representatives, as they refused to budge from main demand.
The numbers were nowhere near what was seen at the height of the protests. There was a more varied age range too, with more older people and not as many young students.
But it seems, the talks with government won’t be happening any time soon. There are reports that key members of the government are leaving the country. The Chief Executive CY Leung, and his deputy Carrie Lam, are heading to Guangzhou in Southern China this weekend for a Trade and Development forum.  

Students and activists demanding a greater say in choosing the city’s leader have vowed to stay until the government responds, while the government has repeatedly urged protesters to withdraw from the streets and allow the city to return to normal.

No policy change

When the government cancelled the talks, it said grounds for dialogue had been “severely undermined” by the students’ call for more people to occupy streets.

Meanwhile, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang said in Berlin on Friday there would be no change in the central
government’s policy of maintaining a high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong, adding he was sure the Hong Kong government would ensure prosperity and stability.

“The central government of China has always had the guiding principle – one country, two systems. The people of Hong Kong manage Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy and we have seen in practice that there has been no change to this policy, and there will be no change,” he said.

“Maintaining the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong is not only in China’s interests but is mostly in the interests of the people of Hong Kong,” he said, adding that China would protect the legitimate interests of all foreign investors in Hong Kong.

Student leaders say it was up to the government to resolve the crisis.

“If they do not give a just, reasonable answer to all the occupiers, there is no reason to persuade people to retreat,” said Alex Chow, of the Federation of Students.

Tens of thousands of people have occupied the semiautonomous Chinese city’s streets in the past two weeks to protest Beijing’s restrictions on the city’s first-ever direct elections for its leader, promised for 2017.

Beijing said a 1,200-member committee stacked with pro-government elites should nominate two or three leadership candidates before the public votes. Protesters say this gives them no real choice and do not amount to genuine democracy.

Source : News Agencies

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