Hong Kong protests subside as exhaustion sets in

Exhausted Hong Kong demonstrators were debating the next step in their pro-democracy campaign Monday as their numbers dwindled and the city returned to work after a chaotic week of mass protests. The government had been forced to shut its headquarters on Friday due to the ranks of protesters blocking the access roads, leaving 3,000 civil servants at home. On Monday a knot of protesters kept the entrance to the complex partially blocked with barricades, but opened a narrow section to allow workers to enter. In fear of a repeat of ugly scenes a week ago when police unleashed tear gas on the crowds, only a committed core of about a thousand had waged a vigil through the night. After a public holiday Wednesday and Thursday, for many in the city Monday was their first day back at work.

I’m happy the protesters opened the barriers today, I need to work!

Female civil servant

The protesters are demanding the right to nominate who can run for election as the former British colony’s next leader in 2017. China’s Communist authorities insist only pre-approved candidates will be able to run, a system activists dismiss as “fake democracy”. Handed back to Chinese rule in 1997, Hong Kong is governed under a “one countries, two systems” deal that guarantees civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and the right to protest. But tensions have been rising over fears that these freedoms are being eroded, as well as rocketing inequality in the Asian financial hub. While relieved that they had not been cleared away by police ahead of the government’s Monday deadline to abandon the protest sites, tiredness was beginning to show for the few hundred who remained. But some of those on the streets have vowed to stay and others have promised to return later in the day, insisting their campaign was not losing steam after the week-long standoff that has at times erupted into violence.

We’re going to be here until we get a response from the government. We have to stay here. It’s for our future.

20-year-old student Jurkin Wong