For the past two nights they have come in their tens of thousands — students, teenagers, parents, professionals and the elderly alike.
All are demanding a more democratic future for Hong Kong, a city that was once a byword for stability yet has been plunged into its worst unrest since the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997.
Student groups are spearheading a civil disobedience campaign alongside a network of pro-democracy groups, and here are some of the stories of the younger people involved.
The literature student
A fan of Chinese literature, 24-year-old university student Alex Chow says his studies inspired him to campaign for change in Hong Kong.
“Chinese literature reflects reality… and criticises society through words,” said Chow, who heads the Hong Kong Federation of Students.
He has led students on class boycotts and in their occupation of the city’s streets, taking an uncompromising stance.
“If you do not carry out any action, your opponents will not see how seriously Hong Kong people are treating democracy,” he has said.
In July Chow led a sit-in which saw more than 500 people arrested following one of the biggest ever pro-democracy marches in Hong Kong’s history.
The arrested student
When Sonia Man went to her first demonstration three years ago, she never imagined it would lead to her arrest Saturday morning after staging a 16-hour sit in outside the city’s government offices.
The night before she was arrested she also dismissed the possibility, saying she wasn’t “ready”.
But the following evening the 20-year-old cultural studies major with dyed blond hair and braces found herself in a crowd of a hundred students rushing into a government square that had been sealed by the authorities.
“I was scared, at first I didn’t want to participate but I knew I had to for the sake of my future,” Man told AFP after she was released.
She sent a text message to her mother after she began her sit-in, surrounded by a phalanx of police.
The next time her parents saw their daughter was on TV, hauled away by four policemen as she chanted “Democracy now!”
“I’m worried about my future,” she admitted. “If my arrest means I have a government that can fix problems like housing, jobs and education, then I don’t care how many times I go to prison.”
The professional defying her parents
Kwok Kayi has been slipping out at night to join the protesters, defying her mother’s wishes that she stay at home.
The 23-year-old curtain designer felt compelled to hit the streets after viewing pictures on Facebook over the weekend of striking students.
“The middle of the night is the only time I can express myself. My parents don’t support me,” she said during a lull in the demonstrations when many around her had already started sleeping on the street.
“My mother is really worried, but she also doesn’t understand how important this is.”
Kwok’s squabble with her parents highlights a generational divide that many thought would doom the protest movement as it failed to attract support beyond the city’s youth.
But as the demonstrations escalated, more and more older people have joined. — AFP
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