Hong Kong democracy protesters are pulling back, not giving up

A man in Mong Kok holds up a sign encouraging democracy protesters, “Don’t be weak.”
A man in Mong Kok holds up a sign encouraging democracy protesters, “Don’t be weak.”
Image: Reuters/Carlos Barria
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HONG KONG—Pro-democracy protesters that have paralyzed Hong Kong’s main commercial and financial districts for more than a week are now withdrawing from some protest sites and allowing access to government buildings, according to demonstrators. The move is aimed at lowering tensions with police, after an ultimatum from the government to clear out by Monday morning, but may also be a sign of the precariousness of the “umbrella revolution.”

Concessions to the Hong Kong government and the retrenchment of the city-wide protests could end up becoming a setback for the demonstrators, who are already struggling with a fractured leadership, extreme fatigue, and violent attacks by reputed members of the local mafia. Police have arrested 19 men for allegedly attacking protesters, eight of whom were believed to have links to triad gangs, and 165 people have been sent to hospitals for injuries incurred at the protests.

The head of the city’s top university, Hong Kong University and other public figures pleaded with students to leave protest sites today for their own safety.

“The effect will be fatal to the movement,” Pui Hung Vale, a researcher at Hong Kong University who has been active in the protests, told Quartz.

Activists stationed outside of the office of Hong Kong’s chief executive announced today that they had agreed to leave a road demonstrators had occupied near the chief executive’s office, which serves as a major artery between Hong Kong and Kowloon island, the city’s two main districts. The protesters are still maintaining a blockade around government headquarters but are planning to create a pathway for government workers to go to their offices on Monday.

That still may not be enough for the Hong Kong government, leaving open the possibility of more clashes between protesters and police tonight.

Protesters also announced over Twitter that those remaining in Mongkok—the site of some of the worst altercations between protesters and opponents since Friday—would decamp and move to the epicenter of the protest movement in Admiralty, near the government’s offices.

On Friday, demonstrators sent a WhatsApp message to media accusing authorities of organizing attacks on protesters in order to coral them into Admiralty, making it easier for police to clear protesters out all at once.

With that in mind, a group of protesters remained today in Causeway Bay, a major shopping district east of Admiralty, and some demonstrators were unwilling to cede the protest site in Mongkok. “We’ll stop occupying when there’s real justice and democracy,” one protester yelled over a megaphone after hearing the announcement.