HK officials resume work as protests thin
Updated: 2014-10-06 10:27
By Kahon Chan and Andrea Deng in Hong Kong(chinadaily.com.cn/Agencies)
Latest updates at 11:16 am, Monday
Government employees arrive to work at an area occupied by protesters outside of the government headquarters building in Hong Kong October 6, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]
Hong Kong's civil servants returned to work and schools were reopening Monday as a protest that has occupied much of the city center for the week dwindled.
At the government headquarters, the scene was orderly as government officials arrived for work as a few dozen remaining protesters looked on.
The crowds had thinned markedly after a week that saw tens of thousands of people fill the streets in peaceful protest.
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Since Sept 28, when the blockades began, 165 people have been injured.
Thirty people were arrested in connection with recent clashes in the Mongkok area, and 21 police officers have been injured, according to government figures.
The Hong Kong government, in a statement released earlier on Sunday, renewed its push for reopening the road and pedestrian access to the government offices before Monday. It also called upon protesters to reopen roads in the Admiralty district to "alleviate the impact on traffic".
A government spokesperson also said the "door to dialogue is always open" for the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the key initiators of the protest. Senior officials are ready to reconnect with the students to prepare for dialogue, a statement read.
The student group's secretary-general, Alex Chow, announced at 9:15 pm that the group is preparing to talk to the government, but he said the occupation activities would continue during the talks.
The government complex at Admiralty houses the offices of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and other top officials. With all access blocked by protesters since Thursday, 3,000 staffers employed there were told on Friday to work from home or alternate locations.
Cautioned by the police that "resolute" action might be taken to clear the blockades, protesters outside the CE office agreed to leave on Sunday afternoon. But many returned after the police resumed full control of the vicinity.
There were no clashes before press time.
Meanwhile, the government announced that 32 secondary schools would resume classes on Monday.
The Transport Department said in a press briefing that if barricades on one of the two trunk roads in Admiralty were cleared, 70 bus routes would resume service.
As the working week was drawing near and the tolerance of the general public was nearing a tipping point, political leaders, two former top judges and university heads in the city renewed their appeal to students and other rally participants to abandon all blockades.
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, in an article published on his official website, appealed for concerted efforts to defuse the current crisis, which he described as a touch-and-go situation.
He said Hong Kong's systems are still intact because of the city's firm foundation, which he likened to a protective wall built over a long period of time.
He warned that "when this wall falls, the city's law and order, governing basis and the core values we have long upheld will unavoidably be shaken. This is a cost none of us could bear, and is what I worry about most".
Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong observed the sit-ins in person. He called for protesters to stop encircling the government headquarters.
Two former top judges also spoke up. Former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang said that the individual safety of protesters could be in jeopardy if they insist on staying. He maintained that as the protesters have already made their voice heard, they should now respect the rights of others.
Li's predecessor, Yang Ti-liang, also released a statement on Sunday, saying that the blockades have caused harm in many ways, and it is time for all sides to look forward and find a solution with cool heads and broad minds.
Words will be much more effective than limbs in a dialogue, he said.
Henry Tang Ying-yen, a standing committee member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, also urged protesters to withdraw in order to ensure personal safety. He agreed that conversation, rather than confrontation, will best bridge the deep social divide.
The vice-chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Joseph Sung Jao-yiu, issued an open letter calling on students not to make "unnecessary sacrifice". He said that taking a step back does not necessarily mean giving up or failure. He asked young protesters to give negotiations a chance and let normal traffic resume on the roads.
The lack of leadership among the protesters emerged as a problem for them on Sunday as disagreements arose over whether to hold on to locations outside Admiralty. Occupiers at Mongkok raised a commotion when core supporters decided to retreat. The few protesters at Causeway Bay showed no intention of withdrawing.
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