Pro-democracy Hong Kong university students say they will continue their boycott of classes and occupation of key city spots indefinitely, though public support has since waned.
Protestors called for a boycott after China announced last month that officials will select candidates for the 2017 Hong Kong leadership election. The strike began Sept. 22 with rallies surrounding the Chinese University of Hong Kong and spread to central Hong Kong.
Originally, the strike was scheduled to end Sept. 26, but "violence by the police force" spurred students to extend the boycott, according to a statement by the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the largest participating groups.
Students and government officials recently met to discuss a meeting with Hong Kong's highest-ranking civil servant Carrie Lam, but Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung has said that the city government will uphold Beijing's decision.
Protests escalated the weekend of Sept. 27 when police used tear gas 87 times and arrested more than 70 people.
High school student leader Joshua Wong, 17, was "dragged away" by police Saturday morning and held for 40 hours—the longest permitted without files charged. Meanwhile, crowds in the streets grew to about 80,000.
"That kind of aggressive behavior, I think, stimulated almost half of the protestors to come out," says Hong Kong University law professor Michael Davis.
However, by Oct. 3, public opinion turned against protestors as they stalled major sections of the city. Masked men stormed some sites and tried to chase protestors away.
"I know our occupation is disrupting some people's lives. That's why they're frustrated, but we are fighting for them, too, so that we can all have democracy," Herman Cheung, 23, told Washington Post. "Why don’t they see that? Why do they hate us?"
As the protests entered a second week, authorities gave demonstrators a Monday morning deadline to disperse. Hundreds still remained on the street when that time passed. According to Washington Post, there was "no sign that police were planning to clear the area."
Over the weekend, university presidents and high school principals asked students to put their safety above all other considerations and withdraw. More than 80 professors responded that the government should be listening to students—and faculty should not encourage students to leave due to threats.
Regardless of what happens in coming months, activists expressed hope that the protests will not be in vain.
"Our generation has proven that we will stand up for ourselves and fight for freedom," says college student Hui Kwat Kong. "And [high school students] are like a seed we are planning for the future. Until a seed blossoms, who can say what will come of it" (Sharma, University World News, 9/30; Wan/Tharoor, Washington Post, 10/5; Wan, Washington Post, 10/4).
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