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Benny Tai, centre, co-founder of the Occupy Central movement, hits a drum next to other democracy activists at a rally near the Hong Kong government complex on August 31, 2014. Photo: AFP

Occupy Central's Benny Tai declares 'era of civil disobedience' for Hong Kong

After China's National People's Congress standing committee slapped tight restrictions on Hong Kong's 2017 chief executive election procedures in an official decision on Sunday, pro-democracy forces in the city have vowed to embark on long-term fight against Beijing's decision. 

Organisers of Occupy Central, a civil disobedience movement calling for democratic elections by "international standards", gathered several thousand supporters outside the Hong Kong government headquarters in Tamar between 7pm and 9pm on Sunday. They declared Occupy Central would soon enter it next stage, calling for thousands of protesters to stage sit-ins on main roads and "wave after wave" of protests and paralyse Hong Kong's financial centre. 

Watch: Scholarism protest against NPC decision outside of Beijing official Li Fei's hotel

10.45pm About a hundred protesters led by student activist group Scholarism remain camped opposite the Grand Hyatt Hotel awaiting Li Fei's expected arrival at around 2am.

Lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung and Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong Chi-fung give speeches to rally protesters, who are asked to rest and drink water during this period.

10.38pm At least 10 police vehicles are parked at a row of bus stops on Gloucester Road. Some people shouted angrily at the police for causing inconveniences to the public and parking with their engines on.

10.12pm After the chaotic scene, Scholarism announced that the police had agreed to expand the barricaded protesting zone.

9.55pm Chaos broke out briefly at Grand Hyatt Hotel in Wan Chai, where Li Fei would be staying Sunday night, as some protesters breached metal barricades because the arranged protesting zone was not large enough to fit the group of protesters who had marched to the hotel to wait for Li.

One of the organisers shouted repeatedly via a loudspeaker, asking protesters not to engage in physical clashes with the police. The chaos lasted about 2 minutes.

9.15pm Speaking after the event, Benny Tai Yiu-ting said Sunday night's turnout of a few thousand exceeded his expectations.

"In such a short time, thousands showed up to express their disappointment at the NPC's decision," he said. Event organisers at 8pm estimated the turnout at 5,000. After the rally, police estimated that 2,640 people had joined at its peak time.

"Even though the decision is unjust and undemocratic, many people are willing to fight for democracy and for the ability to decide their own fate."

Tai said he could not provide further details about when exactly the movement would commence but "citizens would know when the time comes".

He said student boycotts would begin first, followed by a number of regular lawful protests. A yellow ribbon campaign would hopefully raise public awareness about the injustice of the NPC decision, he said.

Watch: Occupy Central leaders promise civil disobedience campaign in Hong Kong

"We will meet again very soon in Central," says Benny Tai Yiu-ting.

Occupy organisers urge participants to leave in orderly and peaceful manner and not to engage with counter-protesters who could try to provoke them.

9.06pm Ng Yut-ming, 50, attended the rally with his wife and daughter. He said he was disappointed over the Standing Committee's decision.

"I want to tell Beijing that Hong Kong people do not agree with their decision and will not accept this," said Ng.

He said he would participate in Occupy Central and was ready to accept potential legal consequences.

Ng's daughter Long-hei, 21, said she had not decided if she would take part in the boycott of classes or Occupy Central, depending on if these activities would change Beijing's mind.

Occupy Central supporters turn on their mobile phone flashlights. Photo: Ernest Kao.
8.55pm Occupy organisers ask participants to take out their mobile phones and to switch on the flashlight function. The lights represent the "conscience of Hong Kong citizens", said Occupy co-organiser Chan Kin-man. A popular song played at social movements by rock band Beyond plays in the background.

8.50pm Martin Lee Chu-ming, founding chairman of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, also takes to the stage to call out the central government for "cheating" Hongkongers of true democracy.

"They are moving the goal posts again," said Lee. "Beijing can now select the candidates, puppets of course ... two to three, they say.

"But what's the difference between a rotten orange, rotten apple and a rotten banana?

"We want genuine universal suffrage not democracy with Chinese characteristics."

8.33pm University student Elef Wong, 21, said he would also participate in student boycotts.

"It will affect my education but I think it is necessary for me to participate because we are talking about the future of Hong Kong," said Wong.

"I was very disappointed in [the NPC decision] today. They have rejected everything we have been fighting for for so long...this is not improvement, this is a step backward."

8.32pm Cheung Siu-yan, in her 50s, took her seven-year-old granddaughter to the rally. She said she would not join Occupy Central because she was the only caretaker of her granddaughter, but said she really wanted to.

"Today is a really sad day," said Cheung. "I'm no longer young. Hong Kong has been pursuing for universal suffrage for 30 years. How many 30 years there are in a person's life? Does my granddaughter have to wait for another 30 years? Don't kid with me."

8.20pm Ho Yim-hung, 80, said Beijing had betrayed Hong Kong in denying it an open election and asserting total control over the city through the white paper.

"The central government is a liar," she said emotionally. "It says people who join Occupy Central are violent, but in fact it is violent itself." Ho said she would join Occupy Central, even if at the risk of being arrested.

8.10pm Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong Chi-fung announces that preparations for secondary school student strikes would officially be underway.

"In addition to our academic responsibility, we also have our social responsibility," he said. 

7.56pm Rain became heavier with rumbling thunder. Many in the rally have opened umbrellas and stayed in the venue, as speakers on the stage vowed "wave after wave of fight" for real democracy.

"Hope starts with people," one speaker shouts, with many in the audience echoing him.

Later, Scholarism spokeswoman Agnes Chow Ting announced the group's plan to "ambush" Li Fei, chairman of the Basic Law Committee, at his hotel in Wan Chai after the rally.

Yeung says the central government had made two mistakes. The first was to lie to Hong Kong for 30 years, the second was to attempt "to kill Hong Kong's democracy".

He urges protesters to each look for a friend or companion to join them in the Occupy Central movement.

Federation of Students secretary-general Alex Chow Yong-kang breaks into tears as he speaks.

"Hong Kong is the home court of Hongkongers!" he shouts.

7.35pm Seven police vehicles are parked in front of the City Hall, all with engine running.

7.25pm Groups of police officers are scattered along roads between Admiralty and Central. In the pictures, officers getting ready near City Hall.

"I know many people are here our of frustration. But we should not. Why? It's because we see hope," said Tai.

"Look at the person sitting next to you. That person will be occupying Central with you!

"We see injustice in society ... And we must voice out this unjust!

He did not give an exact date on when the actual date would take place due to legal concerns but urged participants to pay attention in the next week or two.

He said the movement would dovetail with the student boycotts and come in "wave after wave" of protest.

Police officers line up between Central and Admiralty. Photo: Ernest Kao
7.10pm Metal barricades are seen tied to roadside fences in several different places in Admiralty and Central. Police have previously said they would install at least 3,000 metal barricades along Chater Road, Queen's Road Central and Des Voeux Road Central. More police vans are seen parked on small streets such as Club Street, where another six police vehicles are seen.

Occupy Central organisers kick off the evening's events on stage.

Occupy co-organiser said the NPC's decision for electing the chief executive in 2017 did not meet international standards.

Twenty-five pan-democratic lawmakers took to the stage saying they would veto the plan in council and called for unity. They said the central government had deprived the Hong Kong public's right to choose by not including civic nomination.

6.55pm Small splinter protest groups rally outside the Chief Executive's Office. About 30 to 40 protesters waving national and Hong Kong flags chanted their support for the NPC'a decision and opposition the Occupy Central.

Another group waving colonial-era flags protested across the street. No clashes were seen. A large presence of police kept the two side apart.

The centre of the open area under the HSBC headquarters has been barricaded, with some construction work apparently going on. The area has been a popular gathering place among domestic helpers and protesters in the last few years.

Six police vans are parked on both sides of the small Bank Street between the HSBC headquarters and the Bank of China building, likely waiting to be dispatched.