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Hong Kong democracy protests dissipate

Police fired tear gas and pepper spray on unarmed protesters, prompting some to defend themselves with umbrellas and homemade masks.

By: Associated Press | Hongkong |
October 7, 2014 2:31:55 am
A couple takes a selfie as protesters leave an area outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong Monday. ( Source: Reuters ) A couple takes a selfie as protesters leave an area outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong Monday. ( Source: Reuters )

Student led protests for democratic reforms in Hong Kong shrank Monday but a few hundred demonstrators remained camped out in the streets, vowing to keep up the pressure until the government responds to their demands.

Schools reopened and civil servants returned to work Monday morning after protesters cleared the area outside the government headquarters, a focal point of demonstrations that started the previous weekend. Crowds also thinned markedly at the two other protest sites, and traffic flowed again through many roads that had been blocked.

The subdued scenes left many wondering whether the movement, which has been free-forming and largely spontaneous, had run its course or whether students have a clear strategy about what to do

Early talks between the government and the students have started, but many disagreements remain. Students say they will walk away from the talks as soon as the government uses force to clear away the remaining protesters.

“This is definitely not the end we’ve never set a timeframe for how long this should go on. It’s normal for people to go home, to come and go,” said Alex Chow, one of the student leaders. “It’s up to the government now. This is the first step, but the pressure has to continue.”

Hong Kong has been rocked by a massive weeklong street protest against China’s decision to screen all nominees in the first direct elections for Hong Kong’s leader, promised by Beijing for 2017. The activists want open nominations and the resignation of the current chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, who has refused to step down.

The previous weekend, police fired tear gas and pepper spray on unarmed protesters, prompting some to defend themselves with umbrellas and homemade masks.

The police violence galvanized public support for the demonstrations, and on both weekends, tens of thousands of protesters had turned out in the streets.

But numbers were down Monday to just a couple hundred in the main protest site of Admiralty and in the Mong Kok area, where some scuffles broke out over the weekend between protests and residents.

Many remaining protesters were undeterred by the dwindling number of participants, but they admitted they cannot afford to neglect their studies for much longer. “I think the government is waiting for us to get up. They always say the protests must end and are trying to use violence to stop it,” said Jackie Ho, 18. “But I think they just want to scare us.”

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