OCCUPY CENTRAL - THE FIRST 12 HOURS: Full report as events unfolded
Welcome to scmp.com's live report on Occupy Central, which kicked off in the early hours of this morning.
Thousands have taken to the streets, with protests spreading and some of the city’s busiest thoroughfares paralysed.
Police have used pepper spray againt the demonstrators and anumber of police have been injured.
Our live report brings you all the latest breaking news from our team on the ground.
6.02pm: Just before 6pm police fired tear gas has been fired into Harcourt Road, scattering protesters.
Police have fired three volleys of the gas, but the wind has blown the smoke plume back towards the police line.
5.50pm: Police have warned that they will "use a higher degree fo force" if crowds do not calm down.
A statement read: "Police urge the protesters gathering in Admiralty and Central at present, to express their views in a restrained manner and stop charging the police cordon line immediately. They should leave peacefully and orderly. Otherwise Police will use a higher level of force in order to restore public order and safeguard public safety."
About 80 bus routes have been diverted around the troubled areas. The routes include three airport services routes - A11, A112 and E11 - and a number of express routes to and from southern and eastern districts.
5.38pm: An estimated 2,000 people have gathered on the pavement outside the Lippo Centre and blocked Queensway - another main artery between Wan Chai and Central, stranding buses.
Protester CY Ng, 46, said he had come from the Bank of America building in Central with about 300 people. He said a crowd attempted to go on Cotton Tree Drive, but spilled onto Queensway when intercepted by police.
5.29pm: Next Media boss Jimmy Lai and senior counsel Martin Lee have left the protest zone via the Lung Wui Road exit. The pair said they wanted to check out other protest groups out there, and would not be returning to the Tamar zone tonight.
5.23pm: Things are escalating fast. Dozens of police in riot gear and gas masks are now at the scene. Officers are grabbing umbrellas from the crowds at the cordon with Tamar. Demonstrators are passing new umbrellas to the front lines. Pepper spray is being used much more now.
Crowds are now charging the barricades in an attempt to burst into the Tamar protest zone.
A government spokesman has issued a statement saying Tim Mei Avenue and Connaught Road have been blocked, and have called on drivers and members of public to keep away from the area.
4.58pm: Police are seen wearing gas masks on Harcourt Road, increasing speculation that officers would deploy tear gas to break up the crowds.
One officer held aloft a red banner with the words 'Stop charging or we will use force', as protesters attempted to gain entry to the main protest site in Tamar.
Police use pepper spray at the junction of Gloucester road and Tim Mei Avenue. Protesters attempt to block the spray with umbrellas
A number of policeman are injured in clashes with protesters.
4.24pm: Harcourt Road and Gloucester Road are now at a standstill in places, as thousands of demonstrators take to the main roads. Traffic is at a standstill in places, with cars and buses surrounded by the crowds.
Witnesses have said police are using pepper spray in some areas. The protest sites are ever-shifting as demonstrators move about the area surrounding the government offices at Tamar.
Benny Tai seems surprised at the sudden swell of support. "It is totally unexpected. It's all about our pursuit of democracy. Beijing now sees it; the world now sees it; CY Leung, do you see it?"
4.05pm: Occupy organisers say protesters have successfully copunter-circled police, who were themselves circling the protesters in Tamar. As demonstrators outside the police cordon come into view of the Tamar protesters, they burst into applause. Police now have two protesting fronts to deal with, along with the closure of Gloucester Road.
Hundreds of people are now gathered on the ground floor of the Admiralty Centre.
Meanwhile a man has reportedly threatened to jump from a bridge over Connaught Road to protest police blocking access to the Tamar site. A giant inflatable has been blown up under the bridge to break the man's fall.
Protest seem to be spreading around the orginal site. An scmp reporter says thousands of people have gathered on Harcourt Road.
Benny Tai initially hinted the protest would be held on a public holiday, so as to minimise the impact on Hong Kong's economy. But if this drags into tomorrow and the crowds continue to swell, the city could grind to a standstill.
3.52pm: Several hundred people unable to reach the Tamar protest have blocked Gloucester Road, stopping traffic on one of the city's main thoroughfares.
A number of protests elsewhere in the city will spread police resources more thinly. Occupy Central leaders have previously spoken of tactics to place demonstrators at tactical spots throughout Central, retreating to other sites when police move in.
3.40pm: The government has released a statement on Occupy Central. It all sounds rather familiar...
On the announcement by "Occupy Central" to formally start its "Occupy Central" movement and on the two demands it made, namely the withdrawal of the decision on Hong Kong's constitutional development made on August 31 by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) and the restart of the constitutional development consultation by the Chief Executive, a government spokesman today (September 28) gave the following response:
The Chief Executive and the HKSAR Government have all along been listening attentively to the members of public and are committed to maintaining a diversified society. The public are encouraged to express their aspirations peacefully, rationally and lawfully, and to respect and accommodate different views in the society.
The HKSAR Government is resolute in opposing the unlawful occupation of the Central Government Offices or the Central District by "Occupy Central". The Police are determined to handle the situation appropriately in accordance with the law.
NPCSC's decision on Hong Kong's constitutional development has been made in strict accordance with the relevant provisions of the Basic Law and after detailed and careful deliberation of the actual situation of Hong Kong and the views of various sectors of the community. It is legally binding.
The NPCSC has decided that the HKSAR elect its next Chief Executive in 2017 by universal suffrage. This is an important step forward in the constitutional development of Hong Kong and is surely better than a stalemate.
The Chief Executive and the HKSAR Government will, in accordance with the Basic Law and the relevant decision of the NPCSC, try all efforts in a bid to implement the election of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage in 2017. The Government will launch the next stage of the consultation on constitutional development shortly. It appeals to various sectors of the community to engage in rational discussions through peaceful and lawful means, to reach a consensus while accepting differences and to allow the five million eligible voters in Hong Kong to elect the Chief Executive in 2017 by one person, one vote.
3.37pm: Organisers claim there are now some 30,000 people in and around the protest zone. The figure cannot be independetly verified, although numbers do seem to be on the increase around the junctions sealed off by police.
3.12pm: Police around the protest site have now largely all strapped on their protective helmets and look like an intimidating force to the students weilding inside-out umbrellas and wearing safety goggles.
Outside the protest site more and more people are arriving, with chants of "No violent clearance, we are all Hongkongers, police are Hongkongers too." An SCMP reporter at the scene estimates there are now more than 1,000 people on Fenwick Pier Street and Performing Arts Avenue.
Four police vans carrying more than 100 officers have arrived at the Admiralty Centre.
2.55pm: Fighting talk from Benny Tai as he makes a three-minute, emotionally-charged speech. "Fighters, get ready for this banquet. I believe more banquets will follow. See you again on the next banquet!" he exclaims, referring to further possible Occupy demonstrations.
"We have our belief to pursue Hong Kong democracy. Stand firm," he tells the crowd.
"Who shall feel ashamed? The government! Leung Chun-ying! You shall feel ashamed!
"For many people here, myself included, we will soon have a first taste of pepper spray and police officers hauling you away, but don't be afraid nor humiliated."
Demonstrators are attempting to get into the Tamar site from Admiralty.
2.42pm: Top government officials announce a press conference wil be held at 3.30pm. Statement on the government's website reads:
The Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung; the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam; the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok; the Commissioner of Police, Mr Tsang Wai-hung; Under Secretary for Security, Mr John Lee; and the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations), Mr Wong Chi-hung, will hold a press conference at 3.30pm today (September 28) at the Auditorium, Ground Floor, Central Government Offices, 2 Tim Mei Avenue, Tamar.
2.36pm: Long Hair Leung Kwok-hung is urging others to join the protests, despite the police cordon around the site. He is calling on fresh faces to "counter-surround" the police officers preparing to remove the students.
Organisers tell participants to "exercise your right of silence under police questioning... say 'disagree' where appropriate".
2.26pm: Organisers have issued a new warning that police "might deploy tear gas". Whether this is based on any evidence is not known. "Wear your goggles in case of tear gas. Use wet towels to clean your nose," organisers had broadcast.
They are also handing out clingfilm for protesters to use to wrap up their phones and other electronic equipment, and have told protesters that no action to remove them has yet been taken because of a large group of bystanders watching proceedings from beyond the barricades.
Dozens of people are standing on the planters along Gloucester Road, with more trying to reach Tamar. People are waving at cars, trying to get them to slow down and block the road. One cabbie shouted "I'll join you guys after knocking off", eliciting a huge cheer from the crowd.
2.04pm: 'Leave now for the sake of your personal safety," police have warned protesters.
All the evidence is pointing to action being taken to end the protest very soon. Those gathered are able to leave the protest site.
1.57pm: Police said as of 1.30pm a total of 78 people had been arrested since protests began two days ago - 63 men and 15 women, aged 16 to 58.
Universities have been reporting the number of their students held. Several institutions told the SCMP they were providing help to those held.
“We are saddened by … the confrontation between protestors and the police that led to injuries and arrests,” reads a joint statement by the heads of the city’s eight public universities. “We are concerned for the safety and welfare of our students as well as those of all others who were involved in the incidents.”
1.40pm: Police have blocked all access to the protest site saying the assembly is illegal. "Anyone attempting to forcefully enter the place might be arrested," said police public relations branch Superintendent Kong Man-keung.
He did not say a clearance would take place, stating only that "we will take the appropriate action based on assessment of the circumstances". The police action comes exactly 12 hours after Benny Tai announced Occupy Central would start its campaign of disobedience.
Organisers tell protesters they believe officers will move in at 2pm.
Rumours are circulating on Twitter that water cannon are being deployed, prompting more demonstrators to put on their plastic coats.
1.35pm: Police at the barricades have all slipped on black gloves, leading protesters to believe they are about to be removed.
Officers have barred protesters outside the protest zone from re-entering via Lung Wui Road.
1.17pm: Some 300 protesters wearing plastic macs and goggles, some wrapped in clingfilm to protect against pepper spray, are bracing for around 200 police to move in and clear them away from Tim Mei Avenue. Among them aer Jimmy Lai and Martin Lee Chu-ming.
Protesters are urged to sit with their arms interlinked tio make it more difficult to remove them.
Martin Lee has told officers on the other side of the barricade that they are not against them or the Hong Kong government.
"We don't see you as our enemies ... all we want is to fight for the democracy that was promised to us and our children. There will be no legal grounds if you use pepper spray on us."
12.41pm: Some 200 police have arrived in several police vans. Protest organisers are advising demonstrators to call for help and note down police officers' numbers in the event that they believe they have been assaulted.
12.25pm: One of the Occupy organisers, Chan Kin-man, has called on protesters to intercept or block any police operations after legislators were taken away.
Calling it "progressive non-violent resistance", Chan said: "In case of conflicts, please raise both of your hands to show that you have no intention to attack law enforcement officers." He reminded protesters to abide by the principles of peace and non-violence at all times.
Police attempts to move the disputed audio equipment to another van have been scuppered by the demonstrators, who have again sat in front of police vehicles, chanting "Return our equipment".
On Tim Mei Avenue more than 100 protesters armed with umbrellas to protect them from pepper spray have gathered.
Former law sector Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee has taken to the stage to read a petition signed by several law academics denouncing what they call police brutality, abuse of power and demand immediate release of student leaders.
11.50am: Scuffles have broken out between demonstrators and police as protesters attempted to carry audio equipment into the protest zone. Lawmakers including Albert Ho and Emily Lau, who were trying to get the speakers in, have been taken away. Minutes earlier they were warned that they would be charged with obstructing police if they continued their efforts at moving the equipment.
Officers have confiscated the equipment and are attempting to load it into a police van. However, the students have sat down in front of the van to stop it being driven away. Police have linked hands and formed a ring around the van and the equipment.
Protesters are shouting at police, demanding they release a number of people detained during the scuffles.
Police have flocked to the scene and the atmosphere is tense.
11.33am: Sit-in protesters at the Gloucester road junction are told plain clothes police officers have infiltrated the protest.
"Ask any unfamiliar faces next to you who look like a cop to show their credentials," said a marshall through a megaphone.
11.20am: Not enough sleep? Bizarre scenes and a scuffle outside Legco as an emotional policeman screams and runs into the protest zone on Lung Wui Road. The officer in question appeared to get emotional and let out a yell before running into the area occupied by the protesters. Students blocked his path and a dozen other officers arrived to calmed him down.
11.06am: No more chocolate or bananas - we just need people! Organisers say they have an excess of perishable foods and call on protesters to attract more supporters to the demonstration.
Meanwhile, police who have been at the site all night take the opportunity to get some rest...
11.01am: Police have stopped a truck containing audio equipment from entering the protest site via Lung Wui Road. The truck drivers were warned of breaking the law should they insist on entering. Lawmakers Emily Lau and Albert Ho are negotiating with police.
About 100 protesters have gathered at the site to receive the equipment.
10.55am: Here's a selection of pictures from SCMP photographers at the scene:
10.35am: The announcement that Occupy Central has kicked off seems to have sharply divided opinion among the protesters, with many adamant they are there to support the students, not to take part in Occupy.
An SCMP reporter has quickly surveyed some 30 protesters at the scene and just three said they would support Occupy Central as well as the student sit-in that has been going on for the past two nights.
A spokesman for the Hong Kong Federation of Students urged more people to join the protest, but said the student group was not collaborating with any other political group, nor was the sit-in part of Occupy Central.
10.21am: Rumours are swirling that police are going to move in any time. Next Media boss Jimmy Lai and senior counsel Martin Lee have put on their protective gear and are sitting with the younger protesters outside the entrance to the Legco car park. Lee has pledged to stay at the front, while Lai said he would stay as long as he could.
10.10am: Protesters are putting on their protective gear - goggles, masks and plastic jackets, after an annoumcement was made from the stage that police may move in to break up the protest at any time. It is unclear why organisers think this might be the case.
The students hope that barricades and umbrellas will keep the police away for a time but their defences don't look very strong.
A number of protesters have sat down blocking a passage near the Legco complex that they believe police could use to access the site. Senior counsel Martin Lee is reminding students of what to do in case of arrest.
9.55am Next Media boss Jimmy Lai Chee-ying said he, like other Occupy participants, expects arrests to be made.
"That's why we're occupying Central. This is about making sacrifices. Without sacrifice, we cannot have civil disobedience," he said, adding that he would try his best to participate in the movement as much as possible.
"The most important thing is that we use love and peace. The only power we have is moral power and if we become violent, we will lose this moral power." Lai said that although the situation could not be controlled, "we can control ourselves."
9.41am: Food and other necessities are starting to come in from supporters on the outside. One woman has donated a box of buns for those remaining outside the government offices.
9.32am: Students have erected an unbrella barrier on top of police barricades, in a bid to prevent themselves from being pepper sprayed.
At Lung Wui Road and Tim Mei Avenue protesters are erecting their own barricades, filling up plastic water-filled barriers and reinforcing the lines between them and police.
9.15am: Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit said 18 pan-democrat lawmakers will take part in Occupy sit-in, including himself, his party colleagues Claudia Mo and Kenneth Chan, all six Democratic Party lawmakers, and Labour Party's Lee Cheuk-Yan, Cyd Ho and Fernando Cheung. Some other pan-democrats will help with legal or medical aid.
When asked about some students' complaints that Occupy had hijacked the student movement, Leong said he "fully understands" Occupy's decision to advance the date as there were as many as 50,000 people gathering outside the government's offices yesterday.
"[Some protesters] may not want to support Occupy and have left, but all Hongkongers who want their attitude known to the Communist Party [should come] because this is a defining moment of Hong Kong," Leong said.
8.52am: Student demonstrators were taking the threat of police action seriously, as these pictures show, with masks and goggles being worn in case police use pepper spray. Some have speculated they could even be cleared from the site with tear gas. (Pictures Associated Press)
8.34am: Hundreds of protesters are leaving the site, some for good, others vowing to return later in the day.Thomas Lee, 19, an accounting student at Shue Yan University, said his participation in the student class boycott had come to an end.
"I'm tired. I've been here since Friday afternoon," said Lee. "I will most probably not come back." He said the announcment that Occupy Central had started was one factor in his decision to leave, as he had not made up his mind to attend the "illegal" civil disobedience movement.
Samantha Tse, 26, a student at the Academy for Performing Arts, said she would be back in evening but had to go to work.
"It may get more dangerous at night. I must be there for them [students]," she said. "I'm not going to abandon them just because people are saying the movement was hijacked. My core goal is to support the students and I will do so until the end."
So, will enough support remain to make Occupy Central work?
8.20am: The occupy zone is T-shaped, with police barricades on Tim Mei Road, Lung Wei Road and Legislative Council Road. Snoozing protesters, tired after a night on the concrete, are on one side of the barriers, while a row of intimidating-looking riot police stand facing them on the other.
Despite the tensions, students have been performing their civic duties, separating their rubbish for recycling. Even Benny Tai was spotted litter picking.
8am: After an extraordinary night of protest, which culminated in the surprise announcement that Occupy Central had started, South China Morning Post reporters on the ground estimate there are several thousand demonstrators currently outside the government offices at Tamar. The police presence is muted, although dozens and dozens of police vans are lining roads surrounding the Legco complex, giving the area a menacing air.
Many students are leaving the site for breakfast or to get some rest, while some remain curled up asleep on the ground.
Sit-in organisers have made repeated calls from the stage for students to stay, or to move to "reinforce the defensive fronts" on Tim Mei Avenue and Lung Wui Road.
There is no sign police plan to move in just yet.