SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Tens of thousands of protesters thronged the streets of Hong Kong on Wednesday for what many believe will be one of the biggest demonstrations in the city’s history.
As CY Leung, Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive, spoke at a ceremony to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, residents of the territory marked the National Day holiday in a decidedly different fashion.
Huge numbers flocked to the vicinity of the Hong Kong government headquarters, joining the many protesters who had camped out overnight, some for a fifth night. Overnight, massive numbers turned out to send a loud message to the Chinese Communist party about its controversial plan for electoral reform in Hong Kong.
As thunder and lightening ripped the skies, tens of thousands of people started chanting in Cantonese “Tin Nou Yan Yun, Tin Nou Yan Yun” – a saying that translates roughly as “Man is being blamed because the heavens are angry”.
Their meaning was clear: the gods were angry at the embattled Hong Kong chief executive for backing the electoral reform plan. China last month agreed to introduce universal suffrage – one person, one vote – in the territory. While people would have the ability to elect their leader for the first time, many are angry that the public will have no role in nominating candidates, whom Beijing will pre-screen.
Mr Leung – nicknamed “689” after the number of people on committee who voted for him – has been under fire for months over the electoral plan. This week he came under more intense fire for ordering riot police to use the tear gas. A move to arrest a number of students, including Joshua Wong, the 17-year-old leader of a movement called Scholarism, also sparked more support for the protests.
Outside government headquarters on Tuesday night protesters put up a huge poster of Mr Leung, depicting him with Dracula-like fangs. Earlier, demonstrators hung up a stuffed wolf – the animal’s name sounds like Leung in Cantonese – named Lo Mo Sai, which sounds similar to a strong curse in the language.
On Tuesday morning Mr Leung made his first public remarks since police fired the tear gas – a move that many said had generated even more support for the fast-growing democracy movement. He urged people to stop protesting, saying Beijing would never reverse its plan. But in a sign that he realised his tactics had failed, he conceded that the protests would last “quite a long period”.
Just how big the protest has become was evident on Tuesday night. Undeterred by the rain, huge crowds occupied Harcourt Road, one of the main traffic arteries in the commercial district, for as far as the eye could see. Chan Kin-man, co-founder of Occupy Central, one of the pro-democracy groups, estimated that more than 500,000 protesters would be on the streets by Wednesday.
From the bridge leading from Admiralty subway station into the government headquarters, the protest stretched far back towards the landmark IFC building in the financial centre. The crowds used the lights on their mobile phones to illuminate the road like a Christmas tree and, between calls for Mr Leung to resign, they chanted “Heung Gong, Ga Yau” – “Go, Hong Kong”.
One government official who was visiting Hong Kong from mainland China was so impressed that he started to explain democracy to visiting Chinese tourists.
“It’s so amazing they can organise such an orderly, peaceful and self-disciplined protest,” said the official. “Mainland China can’t achieve . . . They only want to make money or become officials. They will say democracy can’t feed me.”
In stark contrast to Sunday when some protesters worried that China would send in People’s Liberation Army troops, the roads near the government were unguarded. The only police on view were behind bars keeping the public away from Civic Square, which the government had cordoned off. On the bars, people had written “Tear gas only makes Hong Kong cry harder” and “This is our Civic Square”.
Across from the government, Cola Ho, a high-school student, set up a democracy wall with included hundreds of messages in support of the protesters from her classmates. “I told them that Hong Kong was in a dangerous position,” she said.
Just yards away, Mr Chan prepared to spend his fourth night sleeping in the protest area. As he munched on a sandwich, the university professor said he was touched that so many had taken up the cause.
“I could never imagine having a scene like this . . . I underestimated Hong Kong people,” said Mr Chan. “We believed that Hong Kong people were very pragmatic and [might] not sacrifice anything for ideals, and now look at this . . . when they sit there it is already breaking the law.”