Hong Kong Students Launch Hunger Strike as Police Vow to Clear Streets

Hong Kong Students Launch Hunger Strike as Police Vow to Clear Streets

Following the violence between police and protesters at Admiralty, Hong Kong, on Sunday and Monday, protesters are now looking for ways to regain public support and keep up the momentum of their demands for full universal suffrage in local elections. After more than two months of mostly peaceful street protests which have blocked public roads but yielded few compromises from the government, protesters escalated their actions over the weekend by calling on supporters to gather in Admiralty to blockade government offices. In response, police used tear gas and batons to clear out the crowds. The de facto student leaders have apologized for the action, and are now reconvening with other protest groups to figure out next steps. From Shannon Van Sant of Voice of America:

Hong Kong Federation of Students leader Alex Chow said the protesters had intended to paralyze government headquarters, but did not succeed.

“The plan was a failure on the whole, given that even if some places were occupied, they were cleared by the police immediately,” Chow said.

Pa Sha, one of the protesters who demonstrated outside government offices late Sunday, said, “There were thousands of people breaking through police barricades and occupying the main road outside the chief executive’s office. And during that they faced huge amount of police attacks including using batons to hit the protesters.”

[…] “There is still a lot of energy in the people and will to fight, a will to reignite the occupation, but unfortunately the organization is very weak,” he said. [Source]

Following Sunday’s violence, Hong Kong government leaders have spoken out more forcefully against the protests and for completing the process of clearing the streets, which they began last week. From a report in the South China Morning Post:

Leung yesterday cited a Chinese saying, “if this can be tolerated, what cannot?”, adding that because police had not yet taken action to clear some areas, it was not because they were incapable or a sign of weakness.

The administration issued a statement condemning “violent radicals” who repeatedly stormed government headquarters and charged police lines.

Leung also said there growing calls from the public for sites to be cleared. “Many residents are of the view that there is a limit to their tolerance,” he said.

The Causeway Bay sit-in, outside Sogo department store near Yee Wo Street, is the police’s next clearance target after Mong Kok, a police source said. They would then close in on the Admiralty zone, in an operation also planned for this month. [Source]

Despite the government’s renewed determination to clear streets, the more resolute protesters were determined to stay, according to a report by Ilaria Maria Sala and Tania Branigan for The Guardian:

Chief executive Leung Chun-ying’s suggestion that police had been very tolerant but would now take “resolute action” suggested that officials do not feel they need to wait indefinitely: opinion polls show the public want an end to the protests. It appears unlikely that even violent police action will produce the kind of backlash that brought tens of thousands on to the streets in support of students in the early days.

The mood at the main protest site at Admiralty appeared despondent on Monday, though many said they were determined to stay.

A 30-year-old protester, who gave her name only as Elizabeth, said: “You cannot find a single person here that does not feel tired. I have been here since September – imagine how tired I am. But I will stay on to support the students and wait for us to take a collective decision on what to do next.”

Hillary Lai, 24, said […]: “We have done a lot, and raised a lot of awareness in people, but it is a fact that we have achieved little that is concrete. The police keep hitting us and the government keeps ignoring us. But if we get cleared out we can come out again: demonstrate, occupy again. We cannot give up.” [Source]

Michael Forsythe and Chris Buckley of the New York Times interview protesters who have spent weeks on the streets and have declared they will stay despite recent events:

In two months, Ms. Ng has formed the most intense friendships of her life, she has shed her previous view of the city as a “cruel place” after seeing the generosity and selflessness of her fellow protesters, and she has vowed, at age 22, to keep pressing for in the former British colony, even if it takes a lifetime.

“I’m very worried about this place, but I don’t know what can I do,” Ms. Ng, a film student at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, wearing a black hoodie, black-rimmed glasses and braces on her teeth, said on Monday. “I know the opportunity for success is small, but this movement has shown that we are powerful and this place is ours — maybe we can take a little rest and one day we’ll be back.” [Source]

As the movement as a whole searches for a way out of the current impasse, three student protesters, including Scholarism leader Joshua Wong, have declared they will launch a hunger strike on Tuesday in order to rally public support to their cause. Violet Law at the Los Angeles Times reports:

Wong’s announcement that he and two young women would, beginning Tuesday, subsist on water while staying in tents outside Hong Kong’s government complex came as protesters were violently chased from the area overnight. Wong had said earlier that he could no longer be on the front lines of the protests because another arrest would bring imprisonment.

Wong was released on bail last Thursday.

Protester Andy Lam, 45, shook his head and mouthed his objection in shock as Wong announced the .

“I’d rather see him continue to maximize his strength and influence wisely to propel this movement forward,” Lam said. “Now this will only hurt him and the government will sure be insensitive to his suffering.” [Source]

When announcing the hunger strike, Wong declared that he would refuse food until the Hong Kong government agree to relaunch talks with protesters. Ilaria Maria Sala and Jonathan Kaiman report for the Guardian:

Speaking from a podium at Admiralty, the site of the main protest encampment, Wong said that they will be holding the hunger strike on Tim Mei Avenue, which runs by the city’s central government complex. “We are disappointed by the government’s indifference to the Hong Kong public’s demand for universal suffrage, and we are saddened by the overuse of violence by the police,” Scholarism said in a statement on its Facebook page following the announcement.

“In the past 60-odd days, Hong Kong has changed,” it continued. “The values that Hong Kongers hold so dear – equality, freedom and justice – have all been ebbed away and destroyed … we have no other way when facing a broken government but to let go our bodily desires.” [Source]

Read more about the protests via CDT. See real time updates from the South China Morning Post’s liveblog.

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