OCCUPY CENTRAL - DAY EIGHT: Full coverage of the day's events

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 October, 2014, 8:26am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 October, 2014, 9:01pm

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Good afternoon and welcome to our continuing 24-hour Occupy Central coverage.

Hong Kong's government said this afternoon that it would open dialogue with student leaders onconstitutional reform if a number of blockades were removed from the city's streets.

In a statement, the government called for main roads in Admiralty to be re-opened and requested that a bridge connecting the government offices to surrounding streets be cleared to allow civil servants access to the buildings.

Stay tuned for all the afternoon's breaking news.

 

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7.01pm: As the Mong Kok protesters were divided on moving out, there was similar confusion in Admiralty as dozens of protesters re-occupied the junction of Lung Wo Road and Tim Wa Avenue (the main entrance to CY Leung's office) just moments after the crowd voted to clear that area.

"We strove hard to get this site. We shouldn't give up this site without any government decision in favour of us," said Ben Liu Chi-fung, 20. 

"The chief executive's office is an important site," said student Tanson Tsui. "I think we cannot give up the basic principle of our demonstration: to press for the government to undo the unjust electoral reform framework."

The retreat was decided at 6pm after just a small number of people were willing to continue blockading those roads. But demonstrators came in from other parts of Admiralty to reclaim the site.

One of those who remained, Jo Yeung, 21, said morale was low as no lawmakers came to support them and they couldn't get in touch with Scholarism and the Federation of Students. "We are leaderless here," said Yeung.

Police remained on alert. They were not seen preparing riot gear.

6.45pm: Not everyone agrees about packing up the Mong Kok protest base and moving to Admiralty. A group of 20 volunteers declared the retreat, planning to bring the supplies with them.

"We have been considering this for three days," said volunteer Felix Lam, 18. "We don't want to see people get hurt anymore," fellow volunteer Daniel Tang said.

The volunteers said that if Leung Chun-ying continues to ignore the protesters' demands, "We will be back."

However, many protesters booed and shouted "Stay in Mong Kok!" A group of students huddled in a tent said they would stand their ground as the volunteers did not represent them. There was also a dispute over whether the audio equipment should be moved to Admiralty.

6.25pm: Executive Councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said she believed the government and police would be willing to investigate the police's handling of clashes during the Occupy protests, as demanded by the Federation of Students.

"For the sake of the government and police's credibility, I believe they will handle the matter in a fair manner," Ip, a former security minister, said in a TVB interview.

Regarding the violence in Mong Kok on Friday, she said the area, notorious for triad activities, was not a suitable place for a sit-in. "Why did Occupy Central have to occupy Mong Kok? There are all sorts of people making a living there and the protests had already been affecting them for one week," she said.

6.15pm: In a dramatic twist, Occupy Central announced on its Twitter page that the Mong Kok protesters would be leaving to join the "occupation" in Admiralty. Protesters in Admiralty also decided to withdraw from Lung Wo Road, adjacent to Tim Wa Avenue (in front of CY Leung's office) to clear traffic. 

True to their call for democracy, the Lung Wo decision was arrived at, of course, through a vote. They aren't giving up their blockade around the government headquarters, including the footbridge over Harcourt Road.

6pm: Former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen joins the chorus of voices from the government urging protesters to leave the streets and come to the negotiating table. Here is an English translation of his statement:

1. I call on students and other protesters to withdraw immediately to ensure their personal safety.

2. The best solution to problems is dialogue, not stand-off. I believe the government has heard everybody's appeal, and for the next step, we should establish communication in a rational and pragmatic manner, and prevent unnecessary clashes from happening again.

3. The series of clashes and chaos have impacted the society, people's livelihood and the economy to some degree. All stakeholders should keep calm and let the society return to normal operation first.

4. Political reform is a gradual process, one step at a time. All reforms should be based on the Basic Law and decisions by the National People's Congress Standing Committee. I wish everybody could negotiate the future development of Hong Kong's political reform with attitudes of rationality, pragmatism and compromise. Only this way could we all have a chance to take a step forward on political reform, instead of being trapped where we were.

5.51pm: He's coming down! The bridge man has finally decided to leave his precarious perch on top of an Admiralty bridge after almost an hour speaking to three negotiators. There's applause from people below as he clambers to safety, after dropping his megaphone on the air mattress below.

He had been standing on the bridge for five hours, demanding an audience with student activists and live coverage from foreign networks.

 

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Crowd applauds after bridge man gets down #occupycentral #hongkong

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As he was escorted away by police, the man insisted he only wanted his children to go back to school. He also denied that he was paid by anyone to pull that stunt. "I am only a father of three," he told the press. "I'm neither for nor against [Occupy] ... all I want is that my children can go to school and learn what is true democracy."

 

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5.37pm: Earlier this afternoon, elderly men carrying blue ribbons started shouting "say no to democracy" at the crowds near the Sogo shopping mall in Causeway Bay. The group accused the protesters of being paid to fight for democracy.

"You don't know how lucky you are in Hong Kong," said a man through a speakerphone: "All you have today, it's because of the central government."  Then they played the national anthem, prompting a few mainland tourists to sing along.

5.15pm: The Hong Kong police also said that 10 people - nine men and one woman aged between 26 and 67 - were arrested in the Mong Kok protest camp yesterday. They were held on suspicion of fighting in a public place, assault, indecent assault and unlawful assembly. Some of them have triad backgrounds. One of those arrested was a man over 50 who assaulted a journalist.

Another 20 people arrested have been released on bail.

Ten journalists and 21 police officers in Mong Kok reported being injured. “There have been violence on both sides [supporters and opponents of Occupy]. Do not provoke police and cause further chaos,” police spokesman Steve Hui said, adding they would not rule out more arrests. 

5.10pm: Police are tight-lipped on what their plans are regarding the Occupy protests tonight, following the government's insistence that traffic, classes and work should go back to normal tomorrow.

Asked point-blank if they intended to use tear gas or rubber bullets to possibly clear protest zones, Steve Hui Chun-tak, chief superintendent of the police public relations branch, said in today's press conference: “The commanders at the scene will take actions based on the actual situation on the ground. We have a strict manual on the use of force.”

“We will keep monitoring the developments. It is important that we make correct assessments,” he added.

Hui also warned against attempts to breach police cordons: “Police will not tolerate or spare any violent acts. Robust and firm actions will be taken against such acts."

Hui urged protesters to evacuate from all protest zones and remove barriers as soon as possible.

4.50pm: Despite recurring confrontations in Mong Kok today, the protest has overall remained peaceful. But SCMP reporters have noticed familiar faces returning to the site even after police escorted them away. 

One persistent detractor in Mong Kok, who identifies himself as a police supporter, was seen chanting slogans outside the police headquarters in Wan Chai a few days ago. And in August, he was among those who cheered when a man slapped pro-independence activist Chiu Hin-chung outside the Eastern Court.

4.36pm: Members of the Executive Council, a body of advisers to the chief executive, have condemned the violence in protest areas and urged students to leave the streets. A statement published on the government's website today said:

The Non-official Members of the Executive Council have condemned the violent acts occurring in protest areas, saying they do not tolerate violence and appeal to all parties to exercise restraint. Members said they support the police's impartial enforcement in maintaining public order.

They called on all Occupy Central participants and protesters to leave the scene to allow the blocked roads and affected public transport services to resume [to] normal, so citizens and students can get back to work and school tomorrow. They also appealed to protesters not to block access to the Central Government Offices to let civil servants return to work and continue serving the public.

Members urged the Federation of Students to enter into dialogue with the Government on constitutional reform.

4.15pm: An executive of the world's largest jewellery chain, Chow Tai Fook, triggered an online backlash when she mocked victims of violence and sexual assault in the democracy protests.

Public relations deputy chief Joanna Kot, in Facebook posts, scoffed at those who had been beaten or molested by anti-Occupy crowds. “Assaulted? It’s late by a few days already! You all saw it! If there’s a problem, you [protesters] want the police, if there’s no problem you say they are bad guys. If you’re all that, then leave by yourself."

In another post regarding a female student protester who had been indecently attacked, she wrote: “Molested? Remember not to report to the police; revolution requires sacrifice, fighting for democracy is above the law. Those anti-Occupiers are 'peacefully' molesting you. You should be understanding! LOL!”

Chow Tai Fook confirmed that Kot was an employee but said her posts did not represent the views of the company. Around 20 of the chain’s stores, which are immensely popular with mainland tourist shoppers, have ceased operating due to the pro-democracy protests. Online commenters have called for Kot’s dismissal, with some urging a boycott of the brand until she is removed. For the full SCMP story click here

3.55pm: A woman negotiator and four firemen have reached the bridge man. The firemen put up a ladder for him, but he refused it. He was more amenable, however, to taking sips of water given to him by the negotiator.

Following the bridge man's request for a meeting, student union leaders Alex Chow Yong-kang and Joshua Wong Chi-fun are waiting below for officers to persuade the man to climb down.

"We are advised to stay away from the ground in front of him at the moment, and to wait until negotiators have convinced him to come down before we can have an open dialogue," Chow said.

3.33pm: Bridge man has launched a verbal attack on a foreign journalist he saw laughing below, yelling out obscenities and telling onlookers he was going to jump off the bridge away from the airbag inflated by emergency services.

Someone sent a drone into the air to capture aerial footage, but police and firemen leapt in and forced the pilot to land it. 

3.15pm: All is still tense on the streets of Mong Kok this afternoon, as these pictures show: 

2.52pm: The total number of injured people sent to public hospitals resulting from Occupy protests since last Sunday has climbed up to 165, according to the Hospital Authority. Nine people remained in hospital at 2pm today, all in a stable condition, a government spokeswoman told the South China Morning Post.

2.30pm: Alex Chow has arrived at the scene and is looking up at bridge man.

2.14pm: Hong Kong Federation of Students has responded to a government statement which said it was ready to open a dialogue with protest leaders if roads were re-opened and a route to the government offices was cleared to allow civil servants to get to work.

The Federation of Students accused the government of being "misleading". saying that protesters had no intention of barring civil servants from government HQ.

"The way leading to the central government office complex has all along remained open. The 3,000 civil servants can enter the building. It is possible for the Administration Wing to appeal to workers to return to their place of work. Please, the government, stop being misleading," the students' body said.

"Whether blocked roads are re-opened should not be part of the preparation for bilateral dialogue," it added.

Reiterating its own set of demands, Scholarism said talks would only go ahead if police "carefully handle" people on the streets, both for and against the Occupy protests.

2.05pm: Bridge man has demanded he be granted an audience with Scholarism's Joshua Wong and the Federation of Students' Alex Chow by 3pm, or he says he will "do something". A woman on the roof of the bridge has passed the man some water.

"I want uncut footage out on live TV," says the man, who says his surname is Yip.

1.55pm: Bridge man is now sitting down, making a speech through a megaphone. He's been up there for more than half an hour.

1.50pm: The man on the bridge has told people below that he has three children, aged eight, 11 and 14, and they need to get to school. He has been sitting with his feet dangling over the side, and pacing up and down atop the bridge's concrete arch support. A fall onto the road below will mean severe injuries at the very least.

"I won't go until CNN or the BBC is live here," he says.

A woman has shouted up accusing him of taking money to stage a "show". The man shouted back a denial that he had been paid.

1.35pm: An anti-Occupy protester has scaled a bridge in Admiralty and is demanding to speak to student leaders.

"Alex Chow, tell us when we can have our roads back!" he has demanded, addressing those below through a megaphone.

"I want to talk to Alex Chow and Joshua Wong.

"I've already brought a loudspeaker with me; it's not bought with grandpa's [Beijing's] money."

Six fire engines have arrived by now. Rescuers have inflated a giant cushion underneath the bridge.

1.15pm The government has announced in a statement that it is ready to open a dialogue on consitutional reform with the Federation of Students, but has laid out two conditions which it “hoped the Federation of Students and other bodies concerned would co-operate on”.

The first condition is that protesters stop blocking the pedestrian bridge connecting government headquarters and the roads surrounding the chief executive's office, so government operations can resume and civil servants can get to work; the second is that the main roads in Admiralty are cleared in order for traffic to resume. The government hopes this will allow schools in Central, Wan Chai and Western districts to reopen tomorrow.

The Federation of Students earlier said it was willing to meet with certain government representatives, although the group ruled out face-to-face meetings with Chief Executive CY Leung, who, they believe, should resign.

Are we inching towards dialogue at last? Or will the demands and counter-demands of each side keep things at a stalemate?

12.50pm: Exceutive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong says Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's televised speech last night should not be described as an "ultimatum". Leung last night said there was a "pressing" need for civil servants to be allowed back to work tomorrow and for protesters to clear the area outside the Tamar headquarters. He warned of the potential for "serious consequences for public safety and social order" if the protest went on.

Speaking to the media, Lam again appeals for protesters to disperse peacefully. "We need to take care of the interests and lives of the seven million people in the city as well."

Elsewhere former Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang has joined a chorus of calls for students to disperse from the Occupy scenes at once, "otherwise there is a danger to their safety".

In a statement issued through Mingpao newspaper's website, Li said: "The young represent our future. Through their peaceful demonstrations in recent days, the students' ideals and aspirations for democracy have been fully understood and are respected.

"The demonstrations have caused disruption to the life of the community. In the interests of the community, which the students must also understand and respect, it is now time for them to leave the protest venue.

"No one would like to see the students getting hurt. I sincerely urge the students to leave immediately. Otherwise there is a danger to their safety."

12.30pm: Another wave of anti-Occupy demonstrators have challenged the crowd in Mong Kok.

One man clad in a black T-shirt hurled abuse at protesters. "Why is water canon not used if they say tear gas is too violent?" he asked police.

Another group of people attempted to tell protesters how badly their businesses were being were hit. "I only made HK$80 yesterday and I have a kid to raise," one man, who refused to give his name, said. He said he owned a shop on Reclamation Street and paid a rent of $80,000 a month.

In another episode an Occupy Central supporter lost her temper during a heated discussion with an anti-Occupy demonstrator.

"I want to kill this dog," she yelled, before being subdued by lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip. Chan said: "As we have come to this critical time, we need to stay as calm as ever."

Meanwhile two trucks said to be carrying water have been allowed to leave the government buildings via Tim Wa Avenue.

In Admiralty volunteer Cheng Mung-oi, who has spent the last week separating rubbish to facilitate recycling, said protesters should be concerned about the environment, as well as social justice.

"This is also about what kind of a world we want to leave for our next generation," said Cheng, a nurse.

11.39am: Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah admitted today the government had "no experience and psychological preparation" in face of the "unprecedented" Occupy campaign.

Writing his weekly blog post, Tsang, the number three Hong Kong official, said he "did not sleep well" and worried about "more serious matters" in the course of the civil disobedience protests.

"The high speed of development over the past week was completely out of everybody's expectation," said Tsang. "It's hard not to be concerned that more serious chaos could happen.

"Undeniably, the transformation of the mass movement this time is unprecedented. The government, political parties, community groups, the media and the public have no experience and psychological preparation to face this situation, making it all the more difficult to resolve."

He said it was difficult to predict which direction events would take, adding that the confrontation between pro- and anti-Occupy groups in Mong Kok had "further deepened our worry".

"This event is a grave test for all Hong Kong people. Its handling shall require everyone's wisdom and patience," he said.

Tsang will leave Hong Kong this afternoon for a US visit, which will include a meeting with Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen. He said he had hesitated when making a decision on whether to go to the States, but had decided upon the visit so as to explain Hong Kong's situation directly.

Read the full post here (Cantonese only).

11.20am: A number of Occupy protesters tell reporters on the ground that they fear the government is preparing to move in and evict them, following a pledge from CY Leung last night that government and schools would reopen on Monday. Here's what people are saying:

Anthony Cheong, 29, hotel manager, protesting in Causeway Bay: "There are many police today. Nothing similar has happened in the last few days. I believe they are going to do something. Honestly, we are afraid."

Shelley Chang, 21, student, protesting in Causeway Bay: "It's a strategy. There were many people in Mong Kok and Admiralty, so I thought I should help here. If they try to clear over there, people can come here and continue occupying the streets."

Oscar Ng Wai-ching, 23, said: "I fear the police will attack or do something tonight or the next day - I think will be more dangerous."

Mr Lee, 57, history teacher: “I think CY will clear protest sites today. All I can tell my students is to be careful. I know that even if I asked my students to leave, they wouldn’t."

11am: It's McOccupy! McDonald's on Leighton Road in Causeway Bay appears to be doing its bit to ensure the dental hygiene of protesters spending the night on the streets. The fast food chain is giving away a free tube of toothpaste to customers who buy certain meals.

"Get a refreshing 'good morning' gift when you choose any of these tasty Extra Value Breakfast Meals", a sign at the counter reads, offering a free Lion brand tube of toothpaste, valued at HK$8.

Although no mention is made explicitly of the protests, a number of McDonald's branches have done a roaring trade over the past week, selling out of many food items and catering for demonstrators' bathroom needs.

McDonalds later clarified that the giving out of toothpaste was part of an ongoing restaurant promotion, rather than anything relating to the protests.

10.52am: A row has broken out between a group of protesters and their detractors outside Hang Seng Bank on Nathan Road. Police officers have quickly moved between the opposing sides to avoid the situation escalating out of control.

"For the sake of peace, let's stop shouting at each other," one policeman pleaded, winning a round of applause from the crowd.

10.40am: Occupy protesters and their supporters have covered a wall outside government headquarters with thousands of sticky messages. Dubbed, the 'Lennon Wall', messages include:

"Loyalty to the country always, loyalty to the government when it truly deserves it".

"Citizens' Awakening".

"Maybe we are the dimmest light, but when we gather together, we are the brightest sun!"

"I want my HK back!"

"HK is our home! If we don't stand up, who? If we don't stand up now, when?"

10.15am: In the last couple of days an increasing number of Hongkongers have spoken out against the Occupy movement, with many citing dented business interests or disrupted lives as reasons. The SCMP video team spoke to some of them to find out why they oppose Occupy.

 

9.40am: Stories from this morning's South China Morning Post

* The police officer who ordered the use of tear gas against protesters one week ago has said he has 'no regrets' and would make the same decision again. For the full story click here

* Any attempt to launch a "colour revolution" on the mainland from Hong Kong would be futile, People's Daily warns. For the full story click here

* I wasn't scared of tear gas but I was when I was groped, 'Christine' says. For the full story click here

9.26am Some 100 people - many still sleeping - remain at Yee Wo Street in Causeway Bay, with very few occupying Hennessy Road. The shopping area is slowly waking up. Onlookers are taking photos of the barricades, which were reinforced during the night, while about 20 police are patrolling the area.

9.10am: A scuffle involving police and protesters in Mong Kok last night:

8.54am: The atmosphere in Mong Kok has lightened significantly, with passers-by strolling through the Occupy camp as a total of about 30 police guard the protest zone's corners, on the junction of Nathan Road and Argyle Street. Very few anti-Occupy demonstrators have been vocal this morning.

In Causeway Bay 30-year-old factory worker Ou Ronggui, from Panyu in Guangzhou, has spent the night with protesters. 

"I wanted to come with two friends from Shenzhen, but they were refused departure," Ou said. "I think universal suffrage is common in modernised western countries, and Hong Kong should have it. It will be good for China too."

State-owned media has suggested that mainlanders generally support the national legislature's decision on strict political reform for Hong Kong, but Ou said Hongkongers should "defy" universal suffrage as "defined by the Communist Party".

8.50am: Police issued an appeal to the public at 4.30am, to "exercise restraint". Here's their statement in full [unedited]:

Regarding the chaotic situation and confrontations occurred currently (October 5) in the vicinity of the junction of Shanghai Street and Shantung Street in Mong Kok, and the provocation at Police by the crowd, Police appeal to members of the public to exercise restraint and comply with the instructions of the Police officers. They are also urged to leave the scene as soon as possible.

Police reiterate that any acts endangering public order and public safety will not be tolerated. The Hong Kong community regard that the public should express their views in a rational and peaceful manner. Police will take enforcement actions decisively on law-breaking behaviours.

8am: Here's a quick round-up of the major developments overnight: 

* Scuffles between Occupy supporters continued in the night to Sunday in Mong Kok. Police said pepper spray had been used on the crowd because protesters were emotional and "verbally abusive". Police did not reply to allegations of using excessive force.

* The Federation of Students issued two demands for its return to the negotiating table - namely that police investigate thoroughly attacks on protesters in Mong Kok, and that they deal only with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and other members of her task force, not CY Leung.

* Occupied areas in Admiralty and Causeway Bay remained peaceful following a large rally in Admiralty which drew thousands.

* The Sunday edition of the People's Daily, the Chinese Communist Party's main newspaper, dedicated four articles to denouncing Occupy Central - an unusually high number for the paper.

7.45am: Coaches and vans carrying an estimated 250 police officers arrive on a hard shoulder, some 100 metres away from the Chief Executive's office, for the morning shift change. They are given a quick briefing before striding to government headquarters. "Good morning comrades," some say to their colleagues.

On a lighter note, here's another couple of pictures of the couple who got engaged to be married in Mong Kok early this morning, to wild applause from the crowds. Occupy Mong Kok protester Yau Chi-hang, 22, got on his knees and proposed to Crystal Chan. Their celebratory meal? A fish fillet burger - proof that romance is most certainly not dead.

 

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