UDPATE: AP reports, Hong Kong protesters shelve talks with government after mob tries to drive them from streets.
It appears the government’s “wait-’em-out” tactic is working (optically) as The WSJ reports, angry crowds (of pro-government gangs) descended on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong on Friday, causing clashes and threatening to derail talks with the government. After Leung’s refusal to step-down ahead of the protesters’ deadline, government officials called for dialog but OccupyCentral exclaimed “if the government does not immediately prevent the organized attacks on supporters of the Occupy movement, the students will call off dialogue on political reform with the government.” Some protest opponents tore down banners with words calling for Mr. Leung to resign, while others removed tents set up by pro-democracy crowds to shelter themselves.
- *H.K. HOSPITALS HANDLED 37 PROTEST-RELATED INJURIES TODAY
- *H.K. HOSPITALS HANDLE CUMULATIVE 131 INJURIES SINCE SUNDAY
Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai urged the pro-democracy crowds in Mong Kok to leave the site immediately and to return to the Admiralty district. Student leaders condemned the violence but said they will continue the protests in a nonviolent way. “I hope students continue to keep calm,” Mr. Leung said. “We don’t want to cause any conflicts between student protesters and police.”
- *HONG KONG’S LEUNG URGES STUDENTS TO LEAVE PROTEST SITES
And then this happened…
- *HONG KONG STUDENTS SAYS VIOLENCE LEAVES THEM WITH NO OPTIONS
As a midnight deadline approached Thursday, Mr. Leung refused protesters’ demands to resign but said Ms. Lam would meet with protesters in an effort to resolve the political crisis that has choked traffic and paralyzed some of Hong Kong’s busiest districts for the past week.
The announcement from Mr. Leung—just minutes before a midnight deadline—was the first hint of conciliation from the city’s Beijing-backed government since the standoff began.
“I hope students continue to keep calm,” Mr. Leung said. “We don’t want to cause any conflicts between student protesters and police.”
The protesters had threatened to block more government buildings if they were ignored. Tensions had increased over the day Thursday when police were seen loading supplies of antiriot gear, including rubber bullets, into the government compound that houses Mr. Leung’s office. Police had also warned demonstrators that they “will not tolerate any illegal surrounding of government buildings.”
And pro-democracy protesters sought dialog with the government (or else)…
After Mr. Leung’s announcement, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the main protest groups, urged the government to set a time for a public meeting. It also called on Hongkongers to continue the occupation.
“Whether the protest will escalate depends on the dialogue” with Ms. Lam, it said.
Authorities have decided to play a ‘wait-and-see’ approach…
Since Sunday, authorities have stepped back from direct confrontations in an attempt to wait them out, but the police warnings and movement of antiriot gear appeared to mark the limits of the city’s willingness to tolerate disruptions.
Almost half of the city’s bus network has been affected by the various blockades. Schools in many parts of Hong Kong island were closed Friday.
Within the protest groups, signs of fatigue were apparent. “I don’t know how much longer we can go on,” said Alan Leung, 17. “I’ll be here, but we need more protesters to come, day and night. It’s going to be a long campaign.”
And, as NY Times reports, pro-government ‘gangs’ have begun to attack the pro-democracy supporters…
Protesters occupying one of Hong Kong’s most crowded areas came under assault on Friday from men seeking to break apart their pro-democracy sit-in, tearing down their tents and surrounding demonstrators who said their attackers were pro-government gangs.
As rain fell, a couple dozen men stormed into the encampment in the middle of Nathan Road, a major thoroughfare. They pushed and punched past the protesters, grabbed the scaffolding of canopies and pulled until they collapsed in heaps.
Jones Lam, a 63-year-old retiree, was one of about two dozen men who began assaulting the protest camp early in the afternoon. “They blocked the road,” Mr. Lam said of the protesters. “They blocked the people going to work.”
The surrounded protesters linked arms in an effort to protect their tents and barricades, but the assault continued, pushing them back until one large tent remained. Police moved between the two groups, but had difficulty keeping the two sides apart.
“The more radical groups are suspicious and think the government is trying to trick us,” Mr. Wong said. “This continuous tension, it’s the immediate consequence of having no leaders.”
“At present, the status quo is confusion,” said Albert Ho, a prominent pro-democracy lawyer who is a member of the city’s Legislative Council and the Democratic Party. “I would say that we are still trying to find a strategy to sustain the movement and to preserve peace.”
Benny Tai, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong who has been at the forefront of a leading pro-democracy group, told reporters that “trust can solve our problems.”
“This movement doesn’t have an actual leader, but it’s not without direction, not without a goal, and there are ways to handle the different views of the movement’s participants,” he said. “We share the same goal. Our methods may not be the same in actual scenarios. I hope everybody can persist in the spirit of peaceful resistance.”
* * *
The optics of Chinese police tear-gassing young Hong Kong protesters did not play well on the world stage but pro-government-gangs (a la Tahrir Square) are exercising free-well to stop the protesters’ disruption… we are sure they are handsomely paid…
- *H.K. POLICE DENY ALLEGATIONS THEY WORKED WITH TRIADS
Hong Kong police are using minimal force, treating occupiers’ “illegal actions” lawfully and won’t resort to force unless they have to, People’s Daily says in a commentary on website.
Protesters are challenging local police through provocation, cursing, attacking, and spreading rumors of police firing guns
Leung speech yday shows HK govt’s “utmost sincerity” towards perserving social stability and people’s interest, preserving rule of law, and sticking to “bottom line”
Only “radical minority” of protesters are testing the law, while “the majority” support HK govt’s protection of rule of law
Protesters’ “farce” won’t gain support, will be “despised by the world”