HONG KONG -- The Hong Kong Federation of Students activist group agreed Saturday to reopen talks with the government if officials agreed to investigate what they said was a lack of police protection during the violence at the Mong Kok demonstration site Friday night. The move opens a small window of opportunity for resolving the continuing standoff between Hong Kong’s government and student protesters after a full week of demonstrations.
The group said it also would require that police fully protect all protesters in the demonstration areas and that they speak directly with Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary Carrie Lam instead of its Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Earlier, Leung had warned students to clear protest camps outside government buildings by Monday so civil servants could return to work, adding that the road blockades had disrupted livelihoods for nearby residents.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators gathered at Hong Kong’s main protest site in the Admiralty district Saturday night in a show of solidarity after the clashes Friday, resulting in one of the largest showings the area has seen in recent nights. Rumors had circulated that Hong Kong police officers would crack down on Admiralty early Sunday, but the occupied roadway remained peaceful.
Protesters seemed reinvigorated at Admiralty late into the night, with singers leading the crowd in song and long lines of students waiting to post supportive messages on makeshift walls along the highway. But, at Mong Kok, where Friday’s violent events resulted in 18 injuries, anti-protest activists continued to clash sporadically with the large crowd of demonstrators throughout the day.
Rumors still abound over the background of anti-protest activists, with police saying some of those arrested after Friday’s incident had “triad backgrounds,” referring to Chinese organized crime groups, while other protesters thought they were paid by the Chinese government to destabilize the movement. Several of the protest detractors said they were nearby workers and residents fed up with the disturbances caused by the road occupations and loss of income.