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China Hongkong Demonstrationen Studenten und Regierung einig über Verhandlungen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/MAXPPP

No end in sight

Philipp Bilsky / cmk
October 7, 2014

The numbers of protesters on the streets of Hong Kong is dwindling. Nevertheless, demonstrations are likely to continue for some time in several parts of the city, says DW's Philipp Bilsky.


The past few days have shown us some incredible scenes in Hong Kong's government district. Volunteers set up an entire infrastructure to support the protesters: aid stations were stocked by donations, waste was collected, journalists were provided with translators. All on a voluntary basis, unpaid. Fired up - so it seemed - by a barely contained enthusiasm, a conviction to fight together for a good cause.

The students' primary demand is clear: they are calling for a direct democratic election of Hong Kong's chief executive, without a pre-selection of candidates by Beijing. In addition to this demand, two events have served to bring even more supporters out onto the streets: outrage over the use of pepper spray and tear gas by the police, and attacks by counter-demonstrators on students, coupled with the feeling that demonstrators are not being adequately protected by the authorities.

The protests culminated in a massive demonstration against violence on Saturday. The sight of tens of thousands of people waving their glowing cell phones in the darkness will be hard to forget.

Fewer protesters, fewer police

But now, the number of protesters is declining. Violent riots against the students have decreased, and there are also fewer police deployed on the streets. Some protesters are showing signs of fatigue. Many have spent days on the streets, and obviously need a break. What's more, the holidays are over: people are once again heading to the office, or to class.

Philipp Bilsky
Philipp Bilsky, head of DW's Chinese serviceImage: DW/M.Müller

And yet the protests will continue, not only in the government district but also in other parts of the city. For two reasons: Firstly, the movement is now being organized remotely, through social media. Earlier, it was not always clear who was making decisions for the Occupy Central movement - and above all, who was following the decisions. A recent plea by student leaders to withdraw from the embattled district of Mong Kok, for example, was ignored by many. Or, as a protester in Mong Kok put it: "We are not led by men, but by ideas."

And that brings us to the second reason. There has been no visible progress with the primary demand of the protesters. Both sides insist on their positions, with compromise not at all up for discussion. What the Hong Kong government and the student organizations need to do to come up with a solution is completely unclear. The protesters are still far from their goal of being able to democratically elect Hong Kong's leader, as far as they were two weeks ago. It is therefore likely that it could take some time until taxis are once again able to drive through the intersections in Mong Kok and Hong Kong's government quarter.

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