On day four of the OccupyCentral protests in Hong Kong, leaders are expecting the crowds to swell to over 300,000 as National Day celebrations begin.
The Chinese government appears to be taking two different approaches to the civil disobedience. First, major crackdowns on the mainland, as FirstPost reports, authorities have detained more than a dozen activists across China and questioned as many as 60 others who expressed support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in recent days. However, the government’s approach in Hong Kong appears to be “wait-it-out”, a tactic that would rely on Hongkongers not taking part in the protests becoming fed up with the inconvenience caused by the demonstrations. Of course, how long that tactic remains in place (post National Day) is anyone’s guess especially as student leaders threaten to escalate protests as their deadline for Leung’s resignation looms.
Time-lapse view of the surge in crowds…
Protests are expected to ramp up a gear tonight on the symbolic National Day holiday after student leaders set Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying a deadline of tomorrow to resign before they start occupying government buildings.
So far, Leung has refused to budge, raising a toast with mainland officials at the National Day flag-raising ceremony this morning against a backdrop of jeering protesters outside.
More than 370 solicitors and international lawyers issued a statement yesterday condemning the use of force. Police on Sunday fired 87 tear gas canisters, used pepper spray and restrained protesters with batons. “Regardless of the technical legality or otherwise of such use of force by the police, their lack of self-restraint is an affront [to] the rule of law,” they said.
The statement followed one by the Bar Association, which deplored the “excessive and disproportionate force” used on demonstrators in Admiralty. The Law Society has been silent.
Police actions have been defended by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as reasonable.
Some of the signatories said they would help demonstrators file personal injury claims over the use of pepper spray and tear gas.
But solicitor and Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan said such lawsuits would be difficult to win because the court might accept that the police had discretion to enforce the law.
Professor Simon Young Ngai-man, of the University of Hong Kong law faculty, queried the lawfulness of the police actions.
Writing on the faculty’s blog, Young said police gave protesters neither enough warning nor enough time to disperse before firing tear gas.
Officers, Young said, aimed tear gas directly at protesters or into crowds, “suggesting that not the minimum level of force was used”.
Carter Chim Ting-cheong, a member of the Bar Association’s committee on constitutional affairs and human rights, said there were well-established rules that required the police to avoid excessive force while facilitating the safe expression of protesters’ opinions.
Executive Council member Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun apologised to the police for saying they should “explain” why tear gas was used. “I might have used the wrong word.” she said, adding the use of tear gas “was reasonable”.
Authorities have detained more than a dozen activists across China and questioned as many as 60 others who expressed support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in recent days, campaign groups said Wednesday.
The clampdown comes with Beijing’s propaganda machine in overdrive to suppress news of the protests, which are expected to draw their biggest crowds yet as the former British colony begins a two-day public holiday on Wednesday.
Amnesty International put the figures even higher, saying at least 20 were detained and another 60 called in for questioning.
“The rounding up of activists in mainland China only underlines why so many people in Hong Kong fear the growing control Beijing has in their city’s affairs,” Amnesty’s China researcher William Nee said in a statement.
The group called on Chinese authorities to “immediately release all those being detained for peacefully expressing their support for protesters in Hong Kong”.
A group of “up to 20 citizens” were seized by police on Tuesday in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, near Hong Kong, after gathering in a city park to voice support for the pro-democracy camp, according to CHRD.
“All problems that affect the party’s creativity, cohesiveness and effectiveness must be addressed, all illnesses that harm the party’s advanced nature and purity completely cured and all tumours grown on the healthy organism of the party removed,” he added, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong’s chief executive, has adopted a new strategy to marshal the city’s widespread pro-democracy protests: allow the demonstrations to continue until the protesters tire or lose support from the wider public, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The impetus to resolve the standoff peacefully has come from the Chinese government in Beijing, this person said.
“Beijing has set a line to C.Y. You cannot open fire,” this person said. “You must halt it in a peaceful way.”
The thinking behind the tactic is to resolve the standoff by peaceful means and comes after a move on Sunday to deploy tear gas backfired on the government.
“The strategy is to control the situation and let them occupy until a time that the inconvenience caused to others in Hong Kong will swing the public opinion against Occupy or pressure the organizers to call it off,” this person said. “They can wait to a time the public opinion will swing.”
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Despite shutdowns on Instagram, images still escape and with the eyes of the world on China’s treatment of these free-speech-advocates, it is perhaps no surprise they switched tactics (for now) but if student leaders escalate and occupy government buildings as they promised to do if Leung does not resign, then all bets are off….