As the protest movement in Hong Kong enters its second week, no clear leadership has emerged, making it unclear who will call the shots when and if the government enforces an order to clear the streets in time for business to resume on Monday. For Al Jazeera, Joanna Chiu reports that divisions have emerged between various groups on the streets, which were exacerbated during recent attacks on protest camps:
During lulls, the lack of top-down leadership works fine, as well-behaved protesters have famously sorted their recycling and done their homework on the streets. But during times of crisis, mass confusion can occur.
During the clashes in Mong Kok, the HKFS, led by 24-year-old literature student Alex Chow, broadcast statements urging protesters to abandon the area and return to the safer main protest site on Hong Kong Island, but to no avail.
Shortly after the confrontations subsided, the student federation backed out of planned talks with the government, accusing the authorities of allowing violent attacks on peaceful protesters. Leung had announced late Thursday that he had no intention of heeding a student ultimatum to resign, but that he had appointed his second-in-command to negotiate with student leaders.
Leung’s statement divided the thousands of protesters who were surrounding his office Thursday night. Many debated the value of negotiating with an authority that had made clear he had no intention of heeding student demands. And, in scenes of confusion, some protesters decided to occupy one of the last few remaining east-west thoroughfares on Hong Kong Island, while others tried to pull them back. [Source]
For the Washington Post, William Wan reports exhaustion and frustration have also taken a toll on protesters:
Squabbles had flared in recent days among competing factions of protesters over the next steps in their fight for unrestricted voting rights, he noted. Public opinion — which had swung toward the students after the police’s tear-gas attack — was also now rapidly turning against them as their occupation continued to paralyze large sections of the city.
Gangs of masked men had stormed other occupation sites and pummeled protesters, trying to chase them off the street.
Standing next to Chan, another exhausted volunteer, Herman Cheung, 23, began sobbing quietly.
“This is the government’s strategy to turn the public against us,” he said.
“I know our occupation is disrupting some people’s lives. That’s why they’re frustrated, but we are fighting for them, too, so that we can all have real democracy,” Cheung said, wiping his eyes. “Why don’t they see that? Why do they hate us?” [Source]
Concerned by how their actions are being perceived both by Beijing and by the wider world, some protesters have expressed frustration with the term “Umbrella Revolution” that has been used by the media and as a hashtag on Twitter and elsewhere. As Ishaan Tharoor reports for the Washington Post:
They are sensitive to how the protests are being received both by other Hong Kongers as well as authorities in the mainland. China’s rulers do not countenance such challenges to the status quo; the Hong Kong public, meanwhile, isn’t interested in prolonged, destabilizing upheaval either. The idea of a “revolution” on China’s doorstep may play well before the lenses of the international media, but it does not help the students, who are seeking reform and practical political gains.
“This is not a color revolution,” Lester Shum, the deputy leader of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, referring to the generic term used for transformative poltical movements elsewhere. “This is a citizens’ fight for democracy.” [Source]
While the movement does not have one clear leader, 17-year-old Joshua Wong has emerged as the most prominent voice of the students. The New York Times posted a video profile of Wong:
CNN has filmed one family in Hong Kong to illustrate the generational divide between young protesters and their parents:
See also a New York Times video of footage from the protests Saturday evening: