March against Occupy had a mainland flavour
Ranks of locals who fear for future bolstered by cross-border reinforcements hungry for action
"Welcome, our friends from Zhangzhou; thanks for making it to the end, our Shaanxi comrades!"
This was how organisers of a march against the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement yesterday gave their vote of thanks to flocks of Beijing-loyalist protesters at the end of the walk from Causeway Bay to Central.
Clans that hailed from all corners of the mainland made up a crucial part of the turnout. Their origins were on full display - T-shirts of the same colour to depict a certain hometown and banners held high proclaiming the same.
Some had their fill at sponsored dim sum lunches in restaurants before setting off from nearby Victoria Park.
But under the gruelling sun, some abandoned their mission to oppose Occupy just 500 metres into the march, near Sogo department store. One woman, who had been a marcher, asked: "Political reform? What is political reform?"
Many appeared reluctant to take reporters' questions. "I don't know how to answer", was the typical response. Nevertheless, there were plenty of furious Hongkongers - mainly the elderly - who blasted Occupy Central for "destroying Hong Kong", despite its pledge to seek greater democracy via "peace and love".
The protest showed the deep divide over how to go about political reform, including picking the city's next leader in 2017, with many yesterday saying the unrest threatened Hong Kong's status as a financial centre.
The clans were not the only ones putting up united fronts; dozens of South Asian protesters were dressed in red T-shirts - curiously - carrying the logo of the Federation of Hong Kong Shenzhen Associations. They refused to say if they were members of the federation or had been paid to take part. "We are tourists," a man said.
Yesterday's rally proved lucrative, at least for Causeway Bay restaurants. At Cheers in Windsor House, 30 tables were reserved by the Hong Kong Hubei Fraternity and An Kwei Clans Association to treat protesters before the march started. In the same building, all of King's Cuisine and several more tables in Choi Fuk Royal Banquet were taken up by the Hong Kong Hakka Association. About 30 protesters were decked out in blue T-shirts with the logo of Ying Wah Construction Group.
A woman with another company said her mainland employer had mobilised staff. "I join the July 1 pro-democracy rally every year. I would not have joined [this march] if there was no pressure," she said.
Why Anti-Occupy Central demonstrators occupied Central, the answer is unclear