Pro-government group threaten to surround H.K. protest sites
© AFP/File Xaume Olleros
Hong Kong (AFP) – A Hong Kong pro-government group said Saturday demonstrators occupying main roads to protest for full democracy would find themselves surrounded if the city’s administration failed to clear the barricades.
The Blue Ribbon Movement said the authorities should dismantle three sites the protesters have closed to traffic by Tuesday night or they would encircle them, as the city’s political deadlock enters its third week.
“If the HK government will not do that, we’re planning to surround those people who occupy Mong Kok, Causeway Bay and Admiralty,” Tsoi Hak-kin, vice chairman of the pro-government movement told AFP.
“Hong Kong people have suffered too much,” Tsoi said, without giving further details of how or when the group would surround sites that have attracted tens of thousands in the past two weeks, far outnumbering the turnout of counter-protesters.
In August a network of pro-Beijing groups organised an anti-Occupy protest march that drew tens of thousands — although there were allegations that some protesters were paid or bussed in from the mainland.
Crunch negotiations between protesters and Beijing-backed city officials were scheduled for Friday but fell apart Thursday after the government pulled out, blaming protesters for threatening to expand their campaign.
“The meeting and the dialogue should be based on the decision made by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on August 31,” chief secretary Carrie Lam told reporters in Guangzhou where she is attending a trade forum.
Lam’s comment referred to a decision adopted by China’s rubber stamp parliament that candidates would have to be preselected by a committee of fewer than 1,200 people dominated by Beijing loyalists in order to appear on the ballot paper.
More than 1,000 protesters and around 100 tents were seen in the Admiralty region of Hong Kong early Saturday night after 15,000 took part in a mass rally on Friday.
But tempers are fraying in the semi-autonomous territory, with shop owners losing lucrative business and commuters voicing irritation at their disrupted journeys to work.
- ‘We treat this place as home’ -
Pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong have made yellow ribbons a symbol of their movement, while opposing groups have distinguished themselves with blue ribbons, a nod to the blue colour of police officers’ uniforms.
Under plans unveiled by China in August, Hong Kong’s citizens will be able to vote for the chief executive in 2017, but only two-to-three vetted candidates will be allowed to stand — something detractors have dismissed as a “fake democracy”.
Yeung Hoi-ki, a 22-year-old university student, said she borrowed a tent from a friend and is planning to sleep on the roads of Admiralty, the main occupation site for the movement.
“In the past few days I couldn’t see hope (for the movement). But suddenly Carrie Lam spoke (of collapsed talks) then more people came out,” Yeung told AFP of protesters regrouping on Friday.
“Now we treat this place as home. We are staying in tents and we are as determined as ever,” she said.
But in an apparent setback to the energetic student base of the movement, 17-year-old Agnes Chow of the group Scholarism said she was stepping down from her position as a spokesperson due to “heavy stress”