Hong Kong Diary: Protesters Still Defiant Despite Diminished Numbers

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Protesters listen to a speech in Hong Kong October 6, 2014. Pro-democracy protests in Chinese-controlled Hong Kong subsided on Monday as students and civil servants returned to school and work after more than a week of demonstrations, but activists vowed to keep up their campaign of civil disobedience. Carlos Barria/Reuters

Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong on Monday vowed to continue their protests for a second week despite their diminished numbers, with many protesters returning to work and school.

Protesters continued to occupy parts of the main protests sites in the Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay districts but in much smaller numbers than last week.

Rumors of further confrontation with the police proved unfounded and while protesters remained on edge after the weekend’s confrontations with pro-Chinese demonstrators, things were peaceful on Monday.

The atmosphere in the busy Mong Kok district was less intense than over the weekend, when fights broke out between those for and against the “Occupy Central” movement and where female protesters were the target of sexual harassment. Monday saw more female participants and younger people in the area than before.

1006hk1 Protestors sit along along Nathan Road, one of the busiest streets in Hong Kong October 6, 2014. Lilli Hoiting Li

“There were few minor incidents last night here in Mong Kok, but nothing bad happened around our main tent,” said Max Wong, 21, a property agent, who said he did not know yet when he woudl return to work after a week's absence to take part in the protests. 

“A lot of us remain here to support the movement, though there are less people in the morning, cause many of them have to go to work and school,”  he said.

But, said Max, “We have to be prepared every day that the police might take action and clear the streets at any time … there are rumours about the clearance of occupied streets all the time.”

Vivian Yang, 19, a university student, came to Mong Kok today to join the movement since things had calmed down. “I didn’t dare to come here until today, because of all the violent incidents and confrontations in Mong Kok,” she said.

1006hk2 A sign hanging at the main protest barricade at Mong Kok reads: “If (the occupation of) Mong Kok was down, Admiralty will not last for long.” Lilli Hoiting Li

Protest sites in Admiralty and Causeway Bay were also in order and police hadn’t taken any further action, according to media reports. In Causeway Bay, some scholars and activists volunteer gave public talks on democracy and social movements.

“We have less people here in the afternoon, but the participants are increasing after the office hours. I think people are still with an alert mind, but at the same time less tense,” said Isabel Chui, 33, a make-up artist, speaking at the Admirality protest site. 

Foreigners came past to cheer up and support the protestors, including two equipped with a ukelele, while many office workers who work in the Admiralty district came by during lunch to sit with protesters.

This will not be a short-term battle between protestors and the government. It is unlikely the government will give in and respond to the demands of protesters directly any time soon. Time will tell if their strategy will be to clear the protests off the streets by force, or wait until protesters tire and clear out themselves.  

Lilli Hoiting Li is a PhD research fellow at Aarhus University, Denmark and currently based in Hong Kong. She was educated in Hong Kong and Denmark and her PhD project investigates the relationship between the Hong Kong and China’s media.