Hong Kong Demonstrators Hope End Of Protests Not An End To The Fight
Police in Hong Kong cleared away the final pro-democracy protest campsite in the city on Thursday, ending the 75-day "occupation" of the some of the city's busiest streets.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
After two-and-a-half months, the pro-democracy occupation in downtown Hong Kong is essentially over. Police dismantled the sprawling main tent camp in the heart of the city today. They also arrested some 200 protesters who sat in the middle of the highway and, in an act of civil disobedience, refused to leave. NPR's Frank Langfitt sent this report from Hong Kong.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: The mood in the camp this morning was somber as protesters prepared for police to clear the site.
(SOUNDBITE OF HARMONICA MUSIC)
LANGFITT: One demonstrator played a song inspired by the democracy movement as others packed up their belongings. Among many demonstrators though, there was also a sense of defiance. In the end, the day concluded with the sounds of this.
(SOUNDBITE OF RIPPING AND CRUNCHING OF PLASTIC)
LANGFITT: Police tore down hundreds of tents and used crow bars to dismantle homemade staircases. Dump trucks and heavy equipment followed, scooping up and clearing the eight-lane highway. Not all the protesters went willingly.
OK, they're bringing the first person out. They're carrying her out - carrying a student out - four cops just actually holding her arms and legs.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
ALEX CHOW: Democracy now.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Democracy now.
CHOW: Democracy now.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Democracy now.
LANGFITT: Alex Chow, a student protest leader, stood on the giant stepladder overlooking the sit-in. Even as police cleared the streets, he vowed more demonstrations.
CHOW: Civil disobedience action will repeatedly happen in Hong Kong.
LANGFITT: Because, he said, protesters don't accept Hong Kong's chief executive, CY Leung, who was picked by a committee largely loyal to the Chinese Communist Party.
CHOW: We will not choose to cooperate with an unauthorized government. You are not selected and voted by the Hong Kong people. We will resist till the last moment.
LANGFITT: By nightfall, Chow, too, was taken away by police. Protesters are demanding the right to choose their next chief executive through free and open elections. Fearful of setting a precedent on the mainland, the Communist Party insists on vetting candidates. Over 75 days of protests, China's authoritarian government never blinked. Amid political defeat, retired pro-democracy legislator Martin Lee said the demonstration's greatest value was awakening Hong Kong's youth.
MARTIN LEE: Thousands and thousands of students, both at universities and in secondary schools, already each of them now has a fire of democracy burning in his heart or her heart. And this fire cannot be quenched by an iron fist.
LANGFITT: But some protesters worry that without a central gathering place on the streets, the movement could wither, particularly in a pragmatic city like Hong Kong where traditionally, most people have mostly been concerned with just making money. The night before the clearance, Jacqueline Leung, a 22-year-old social worker, was making commemorative T-shirts to keep the demonstrations in people's minds.
JACQUELINE LEUNG: I'm quite worried that if Hong Kong people will forget the movement after a half-year or a year. I don't want it to happen, but I'm a bit worried because Hong Kong people are quite forgetful.
LANGFITT: Especially, she says, when it comes to politics. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Hong Kong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.