OCCUPY CENTRAL - DAY 64: Joshua Wong announces hunger strike to call for talks with government
HKFS leader Alex Chow admits that escalation action was largely 'a failure'
Good evening and welcome to scmp.com's live coverage of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests. Overnight, students gathered near government headquarters in a tense stand-off with police in which pepper spray and batons were used. Now Admiralty is under siege after students gathered there following a call from their leaders, vowing to escalate action shortly after the deadlocked protest entered its second month. Protesters are pushing Beijing for democratic reforms in the 2017 chief executive election.
11pm: Joshua Wong Chi-fung, convenor of the student activist group Scholarism, announced that he and two other members of the group would stage an indefinite hunger strike to call for open talks with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on political reform.
"Carrie Lam said earlier the door to dialogue was always open. Our humble demand is to ask for dialogue to discuss the possibility of withdrawing the current [reform] proposal and relaunch the five-step reform process," Wong said, adding that no other preconditions would be set for the talks.
Wong Ji-yuet, a form six student who plans to join the hunger strike, said the democratic movement had stagnated and she hoped the hunger strikes would apply pressure on the government to respond to the student group's demands.
9.30pm: Chaos broke out around the main stage in Admiralty when a masked group of people approached the stage and started removing metal barriers protecting it.
One man jumped onto the stage and refused to leave. He demanded student leaders come up to explain their actions yesterday, as the crowd grew emotional and called on him to get down. The stalemate continued for around five minutes. The man was dragged off the stage shortly afterwards by a group of unknown people.
"When the police start beating people next to us, should we remain inactive and do nothing? We should help the others by at least protecting them from the beating, not just raising our hands," he said. He did not identify himself and spoke wearing a mask.
7.40pm: The Hospital Authority said that the number of people injured in pitched battles between protesters and police overnight and this morning had risen to 58.
Between 10pm last night and 2pm today, 58 people including 11 police officers had been sent to accident and emergency wards in Hong Kong, the HA confirmed.
Since the beginning of the Occupy pro-democracy movement on September 28, a total of 539 people, as of 2pm on December 1, have been sent to government hospitals with injuries sustained during protests.
Meanwhile, police have launched a probe into the theft of building materials, plastic barriers and tools from a construction site in Lung Wo Road near the junction with Tin Wa Road yesterday.
Police received a report from a site worker at about 9.30am. The stolen properties included 30 boxes of concrete columns and 50 plastic barriers. Police detectives are investigating but so far no arrests have been made.
7.10pm: Sunday nights’ move to escalate action was ultimately a “failure”, though responsibility for the scores of injuries rested solely with the police, student leaders said on Monday night.
Federation of Students Secretary General Alex Chow Yong-kang said last night’s escalation of protesters’ actions to surround government buildings had had some effect in pressuring the government as central government offices had been closed for half a day.
“But as a whole, it was a failure,” said Chow. “The whole plan did not achieve its objective of paralysing government.”
He blamed police for blocking the path of protesters as they attempted to go to the chief executive’s office from Tamar Park causing protesters to spill out onto Lung Wo Road.
In terms of what was next, Chow said students would discuss plans on whether to retreat or advance with protesters in the Occupy sites.
“It will be particularly serious for us in terms of how it will go on,” said Chow. “We believe occupation has its’ strengths and limits, but what we’ve underestimated is the strength of [the government’s] political power.”
Chow acknowledged there was a divergence in opinions in terms of strategy between different groups of protesters and there was “room for improvement”.
Many protesters blamed the students for failing to protect them and causing the casualties.
Commenting on the alleged beating of three police officers on Monday morning, Chow said police had taunted protesters and used violence against them.
Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong Chi-fung said police used unnecessary force and were to blame for the injuries caused to their “brothers in arms”.
“The biggest responsibility rests with the police,” said Wong. “To clear our protesters they could have carried them out as they’ve done in the past. Instead they used batons ... and pepper spray.”
Wong denied shirking away from the front line as he did not show up with protesters on Lung Wo Road.” If I were to be detained again in such a short period, I would be locked up ... Only to be released for my trial on January 14,” he said. “If I wasn’t constrained by my bail conditions, I would have stood at the front with everyone.”
6.30pm: Chief Superintendent Steve Hui Chun-tak of the Police Public Relations Branch said that the police respected the High Court’s decision on Monday to grant an interim injunction order to bar pro-democracy protesters from occupying areas in Admiralty and Central.
Hui said police would cooperate fully with the plaintiff, a listed bus company, and bailiffs in implementing the ruling – which covers Connaught Road Central, Harcourt Road and most of Cotton Tree Drive.
“Police will of course consider exercising other powers to restore public order,” Hui said, refusing to disclose whether there would be further action taken at the protest sites.
Police arrested 40 people in Admiralty and 12 people in Mong Kok during violent protests overnight and this morning which saw 17 police officers receiving injuries in the course of their duties.
Three police officers were attacked near the Admiralty Centre after coming off duty on Monday. One officer was knocked unconscious and remains in hospital for treatment. Hui says he did not know what the three officers had done to provoke the attack.
Asked whether the police would investigate the matter in which officers were caught provoking protesters by video swearing, making gestures and clapping as protesters were beaten, Hui said he welcomed the public to present evidence to them.
“It is not fair to comment on this before an investigation”, Hui said: “I wish the public would understand the difficulty in law enforcement during such complicated circumstances.”
5.10pm: Lawmaker and chairman of Labour Party Lee Cheuk-yan calls for more discussions on the Occupy movement's future plans, as protesters failed to escalate their actions in face of the police's tough stance to combat protests outside government headquarters last night.
"[Last night] showed that when protesters escalate their actions, police also escalate their violence," Lee says. "Because of such differences [in strength] ... it will be more difficult [for protesters] to remain peaceful and non-violent while escalating their actions."
4.40pm: The Hang Seng Index tumbled 2.58 per cent, or 620 points to 23,367.45, by close of trade on Monday, accelerating stock losses after lunch. Hong Kong’s main stock index opened lower following clashes overnight on Monday.
4.05pm: Police say they have arrested a 30-year-old man involved in an attack on four policemen in Admiralty this morning. Officers are searching for another two men aged between 30 and 40 in connection with the attack in the Admiralty Centre, police said.
The incident happened about two hours after police used batons, pepper spray and a high-pressure water hose to break up a protest in Lung Wo Road.
3.30pm: Alex Chow of the Hong Kong Federation of Students has branded the action overnight, which led to the arrest and injury of dozens of people, a success. “The government headquarters was paralysed this morning... to a certain extent, the goal of the action was achieved,” he told demonstrators in Admiralty today.
2.30pm: Chief executive Leung Chun-ying this afternoon urged occupiers to go home, saying the government did not want to be forced to clear the site.
In a speech he said: "We do not wish to arrest people in site clearance ... as they will have criminal records, which will affect their chances in studying and working overseas." He repeated his mantra that the government had been highly tolerant of the Occupy situation so far.
He said the tolerance of people in Hong Kong had reached its limit and again stated that people should not make the mistake of beliving police incapable of handling the protests. "Please do not take tolerance as incapability in handling the issue...do not think the police are weak," he said.
Meanwhile, Financial Secretary John Tsang warned today that Hong Kong’s economic growth for this year could be lower than the government’s earlier forecast of 2.2 per cent. He warned that the Occupy movement is harming the city’s image as an international financial centre.
2:20pm: Many government workers can be seen walking past City Hall and the PLA Barracks to get to work via Lung Wo Road and the entrance to the legislative buildings on Tim Wa Avenue. Two government security guards check IDs at a temporary checkpoint.
2pm: A lengthy statement has also been issued on behalf of the government, blasting protesters for their acts which "show blatant disregard for law and endanger public safety".
The Government spokesman reiterated that society would not accept the illegal acts of violent radicals who repeatedly pushed police officers and charged their cordon lines during scuffles last night and this morning. The spokesman added that these illegal acts have seriously disrupted public order and put the safety of police officers and protesters at stake.
During the jostling, the violent radicals deliberately threw objects including water bottles, helmets and pepper powder at the police officers. They also used strong flashlights against police officers and attacked them with fire extinguisher spray. The violent radicals repeatedly provoked and verbally abused police officers and continuously incited others at the scene to charge the police cordon lines. To prevent the situation from deteriorating, the Police took resolute action by using appropriate force to stop these illegal acts and disperse and arrest those involved. However, the radical protesters ignored repeated police appeals and warnings and continued to charge the police cordon lines. Eleven police officers were injured during the incident and 40 persons have been arrested so far. Further arrests will be made.
The Government strongly condemns the student groups for planning illegal assemblies and inciting protesters to charge towards the CGO repeatedly. The spokesman said a number of recent polls have revealed that the majority of the people hope that the protesters would leave the occupied sites as soon as possible and cease the blockades of roads. However, the relevant organisations went against the views of the majority and escalated the occupy actions, aggravating the damage to social order and sacrificing the overall interests of the Hong Kong people.
On claims by the student groups that the blockade of the CGO will continue until the Government responds to their demands, the Government has reiterated repeatedly that any discussion relating to constitutional reform must be guided by the Basic Law and the decision of the National People's Congress Standing Committee. Deliberate disregard for and distortion of these important legal principles through building castles in the air would only delay the constitutional and democratic development of Hong Kong.
1.55pm: Hong Kong's government posted this on their website - a statement by ExCo's non-official members:
The Non-official Members of the Executive Council seriously condemn the series of violent acts instigated by part of the protesters in the areas outside the Central Government Offices last night (November 30) and this morning (December 1). Members also condemn the organisers of these illegal activities for being irresponsible as they advocated public participation in these illegal activities, without regard to the safety of the participating public.
The ExCo Non-official Members call on protestors to stop blocking the access to the Central Government Offices immediately so that normal government operation could be resumed as soon as possible. They also call upon all protesters of the Occupy Central movement to leave the scene as soon as possible, in response to the wish of the great majority of the public to resume law and order in the city.
1pm: A fire at the PLA headquarters in Admiralty started in a kitchen exhaust duct, according to the Fire Services Department. Thirteen fire engines were sent to the scene just before 10am, but the fire had already been extinguished when they arrived. There were no reports of injuries and no evacuation was required.
12.55pm: It sounds like some protesters are getting despondent. An increasing number are telling the Post they will not resist police any more.
Terry Chan, 32, a clerk on his annual leave holiday, said he would not put struggle later this afternoon.
"Everyone is tired," said Chan. "There is no point in blocking the entrances when police can easily clear us out. We do not have the numbers anymore."
Emily Luk, 40, who has been supporting the students since the first night of occupation said the movement no longer had the numbers to hold down all the points and it was only a matter of time before police cleared the place.
Foon Hon, 20, a University of Hong Kong accounting student, said everyone was just waiting for police action.
"I support the students because I am one but I think preparation and planning for any sort of action must be better," he said. "Actions should not be taken if they are not meaningful."
Hon said the students had bungled the chance by being to idle early on in the movement, when morale was high.
12.15pm: Calm has descended on Admiralty for now, as protesters rest, with several telling the Post they have no intention of escalating action this afternoon.
"We don't have enough people," student Mo Lau, 19, said.
The Central Government Office will resume work this afternoon, the government has announced, and civil servants are expected to pour in to Admiralty after lunchtime.
Lau said there was no point attempting to bar civil servants from going to work after seeing the police arrangements this morning.
"Police can make it to the footbridge very quickly, and if we blocked the bridge, they would get involved," he says.
"But people will come tonight again after work," he adds.
Watch: Violent clashes in Admiralty overnight after Hong Kong protests escalate
Musician Felix Yung, 27, criticised organisers for flip-flopping.
Although not agreeing with the escalation of the protests he said he didn't think the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism were left with any choice.
Salesperson Jack Ng, 28, who calls the government authoritarian, said he was disappointed by the government's attempts at repressing protesters and branding them violent.
12.05pm: Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index plunged 1.9 per cent to 23,532.45 points this morning, following the clashes overnight. As of midday it had recovered slightly to remain 1.78 per cent down, at 23,559.56.
11.57am: The Secretary for Securit,y Lai Tung-kwok, condemns the storming action on Lung Wo Road.
Lai said the action organised by HKFS and Scholarism last night was organised and planned, as protesters formed barricades with metal barriers and pushed the line forward against the cordon. He said protesters intended to paralyse the operation of the government, which is intolerable.
The security minister said violent clashes were contrary to the slogan of "peace and non-violent” as stated by the organisers when the movement kicked off. “Batons and bricks were found in the bags of the protesters," Lai said.
Since the beginning of the Occupy movement in late September until 8am today, a total of 518 people have been sent to the Accident and Emergency wards, the Government Information Service reports.
The injured were mostly sent to Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei and Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam.
11.25am: Police condemn protest organisers for inciting violence against officers during the siege of the government headquarters in the early hours of Monday.
Senior superintendent Tsui Wai-hung said at a press conference on Monday morning that the protests in Lung Wo Road were orchestrated by students.
"Around 9pm [Sunday], some student groups [in Admiralty] abet other citizens to siege the government headquarters," Tsui said.
He said later some protesters used loudspeakers to issue commands to other protesters who then charged on the police.
"The police strongly condemn the illegal assembly of participants for repeatedly ignoring police appeals, for their near-mobster behaviour and for their illegal occupation of roads," he said. He said these behaviour undermined Hong Kong's law and order.
11.05am: Three protesters are back at the recently-cleared Tamar Park pitching tents.
10.40am: We're getting unconfirmed reports of a fire at the PLA HQ in Hong Kong. This picture has been posted on Twitter. We'll get you an update on this as soon as we have one.
10.35am: The police have completely cleared tents from Tamar Park. It's obvious where the tents used to be because the grass beneath has died in neat squares. Judging from the marks, around 30 tents of various sizes were removed.
The police have piled the tents, umbrellas and other debris in a heap outside the entrance to the chief executive's office on Tim Wa Avenue. A truck with a portable crane is scooping up the collected tents and belongings. Cleaning crews are also picking up trash from Lung Wo Road, where traffic has resumed.
As of 10.27am, the sidewalk on Lung Wo Road is sealed off near the chief executive's office.
"Any social movement must keep on escalating or it will die."
"But Siu said he himself was very conflicted and could not decide if retaliating against police was the right thing to so.
"That's the thing about civil disobedience, nobody really understands the concept that well," he added. "But I don't agree that they should be putting the blame on and scolding the students.”
9.50am: Here's what we're seeing at Admiralty, where violence has flared at the MTR station. The entrance to Admiralty Shopping Centre is now blocked.
9.40am: Music teacher Derek So describes the water-splash device as one similar to a "water hose used by firemen and marine police".
"It shot out pressurised [liquid] and the [liquid] fell on people," the 23-year-old says.
He adds: "Everyone left immediately without putting up a fight."
Another protester Suen, 21, recalls the hose was yellow in colour and that he spotted it as early as 3am near the Central Government Office.
"It was on the floor, and I saw it being picked up," the student says, but adds he did not witness police using it.
9.15am: Three suspected undercover police officers carrying Hong Kong police badges and batons, are chased towards the exit of Admiralty MTR station through Admiralty Centre.
Protesters chase after them before the officers lead a baton charge, pinning down around six or seven protesters. One officer is knocked out almost cold. Protesters chant: “Put away batons!” before arrests are made. The knocked out police officer is stretchered onto an ambulance.
9.05am: Police guarding Lung Wo Road on Legislative Council Road retreat. Metres away, the entrance to Tamar Park also reopens, with protesters given access to the park again.
9am: Terry Kwan Yin-cheung, 18, a first year philosophy student at Lingnan University, tells our Post reporter: "I feel very confused right now because we expected something big but not what happened last night and now we are in a dilemma."
"We cannot get inside the legislative council or outside the Chief Executive's office. We just sit here on the road [Harcourt] and defend ourselves against the police. This is not what I thought would happen last night.
8.40am: Tensions rise as protesters begin bickering amongst themselves, with some becoming openly hostile. Many say they are disappointed with the students' leadership of the failed occupation of Lung Wo Road and siege of government complex.
At least one helmet and beer can is thrown at the students by angry fellow Occupy protesters as they discuss the next step at the main stage.
"All you do is grab the stage and chant slogans. We've listened to this crap for more than 60 days," shouted one masked protester at the students. "If you don't have the heart to go on then leave. It's either we grab our tools now or go home!"
Another protester says he had "many brothers injured" because students refused to let them retaliate and throw objects at police to prevent them from advancing.
"If you want us to help surround [government buildings] we will. Don't teach us how to do it and what we can't do," another protester said. "Just tell us the plan and let the citizens take care of it."
Federation of Students representatives try to calm them down saying it is pointless to attack police and give them an excuse to escalate action.
Protesters are pictured reinforcing the barricades at the bottom of escalators near government headquarters.
8.30am: A police source confirms that hoses were used for the first time to "cause discomfort" in the hope that the protesters will leave. The fresh water, tapped from fire hose by police, was aimed in the air, not at people, the source says. Television images show it was used at the junction of Tim Wah Avenue and Lung Wo Road at 7am.
8.20am: Yany Yan-yin Tse, a 24-year-old student at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, claims she has witnessed police officers using violence against women. In tears, she says: "I saw the police beating up women (sic). She was by herself, and they had her held down but kept beating her. There were three or four policemen around her swinging their batons so no one could rescue her. She was crying for help.”
Here are some more pictures from overnight:
8.15am: Tension appears to have eased on Legislative Council Road, as protesters who previously pushed back from Lung Wo Road sit down in a standoff with the police. The entrance to Tamar Park near the rear gates of Legco is still blocked by police officers wearing helmets.
8am: Police force protesters previously occupying roads around the government headquarters and blocking a main staff entrance back to their original protest site on Harcourt Road. Tensions remain high as police taunt protesters by clapping and laughing at them from the bridge above Harcourt Road. Protesters respond by jeering and swearing at them.
7.45am: A protester with a megaphone implores police: "Stop pushing or else you'll push citizens down the stairs. Please stay calm." Government staff at Tamar are advised not to go to work this morning in an announcement made at 7am by the government which stated offices would be temporarily closed due to access roads being blocked.
7.30am: Tensions flared overnight after hundreds of students faced off with police outside Legco. at 7.10am police dismantled the barricades set up by protesters on both ends of the Lung Wo Road tunnels and chased protesters back onto Tim Mei Road. Officers, armed with helmets, shields and batons, formed a standoff against hundreds of protesters outside the legislative council. Protesters shouted: "Don't do anything. We are all Hongkongers." Police officers then shot back: "Then why do you insult the police?"
7.25am: Police move to secure the walkways joining the Central Government Office and Admiralty. Meanwhile, a yellow truck drives past the reopened Lung Wo Road, followed by a school bus, escorted by police motorbikes.
Here's how the South China Morning Post reported events through the night:
Students fought running battles with police outside government headquarters on Sunday night as Occupy protesters tried to storm the Admiralty compound and lay siege to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's office.
Minutes after student leaders called on the thousands gathered at the Admiralty Occupy encampment, hundreds of protesters - wearing an assortment of hard hats and protective masks - thronged around government headquarters and Tamar Park and began trying to breach police lines at various points.
Police used pepper spray and baton charges to repel them, leaving some bloodied and requiring treatment by makeshift medics. Key areas of violence were Lung Wo Road and the walkways from Harcourt Road to government headquarters.
Watch how overnight clashes start: