It has been over month since the Occupy Central protests began and life in Hong Kong is gradually returning to normal. Crowds have thinned and many roads have re-opened but there is still a stalemate between the protesters and the government.
The entire process has been extremely dignified and well organised. In Admiralty, there is a tent city where there is usually a busy thoroughfare. Protesters work or attend classes by day and return to the streets at night to let it be known that they want a genuine democracy for Hong Kong.
With few exceptions, the activists, police and the government have all shown extraordinary restraint. One night in Admiralty, we witnessed a man attempting to dismantle a barricade. Each time he removed an object, the protesters would calmly replace it. This went on for about 25 minutes until someone started to shout at the man. Rather than trying to prevent the man from removing the barricade, the protesters restrained the person who was shouting at him because they did not want trouble. There have been reports of altercations with Anti-Occupy groups and clashes with police, especially in Mon Kok across Victoria Harbour in Kowloon, but overall the demonstrations have been surprisingly peaceful.
While the movement has garnered support from around the world, the citizens of Hong Kong are anxious to get back to normal life. As idealistic as it sounds to fight for democracy, patience is wearing thin. Many here have had their livelihoods compromised because tourism is down and a drastic decline in business has left some small shopkeepers struggling. Some are just exasperated by traffic jams and truncated bus schedules. The already congested roads are clogged as drivers must circumvent streets blocked by barricades. In Causeway Bay, a bustling retail area, there are more tourists taking pictures of protesters than there are protesters but the roadblocks remain.
The police are in a difficult position because, until recently, sentiment was on the side of the activists. However, recently petitions in support of the police have begun to circulate. Government leaders say they want to take the discussions to the conference table rather than continuing the standoff and many people here feel like the only way to break the impasse is with diplomacy and statesmanship. With no real hope of China relenting, the prevailing attitude here is that they have made their point and gained a voice on the world stage. A peaceful end to a commendable effort is the best they can hope for.
What do you think of the protests and how will it end? Please leave a comment and let me know.