Hundreds of student activists camped overnight in Hong Kong as the protesters tried to re-gather momentum after the government called off talks aimed at defusing unrest in the global financial hub.
The protest movement suffered a noticeable dip in support over the past week, but strong crowds of over ten thousand returned on Friday evening for a series of rallies in the former British colony.
By Saturday afternoon many protesters were coming back again to join those who had camped overnight.
“Hong Kong is my home, we are fighting for Hong Kong’s future, our future,” Lawrence Chan, a media studies student who has participated in the protests from the outset, told the Reuters news agency.
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Hong Kong Chief Secretary Carrie Lam said on Thursday that the government had cancelled scheduled talks as the students’ persistent calls to escalate action had “severely undermined” the grounds for dialogue.
At Friday’s rallies, protest leaders urged demonstrators to prepare for a protracted struggle instead of expanding the protests geographically. The protests have led to some resentment among the public due to the resulting traffic jams and loss of business.
Tens of thousands of people have occupied the semiautonomous Chinese city’s streets in the past two weeks to protest China’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.
It was unclear how long Hong Kong authorities will tolerate the occupation or how the standoff might be resolved. For now, however, the police presence remains thin with authorities seemingly reluctant to risk fresh flare-ups.
Riot police had cracked down on protesters massing near the government headquarters on September 28, but the authorities has since taken a softer line.
The ‘Occupy Central‘ protests, an idea conceived over a year ago referring to the Central business district, have presented Beijing with one of its biggest political challenges since it crushed pro-democracy demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square in the Chinese capital in 1989.