Hong Kong protests at crossroads

2014-10-07 09:19
Protesters are taken away by police officers after hundreds of protesters staged a peaceful sit-ins overnight on a street in the financial district in Hong Kong. (File, AP)

Protesters are taken away by police officers after hundreds of protesters staged a peaceful sit-ins overnight on a street in the financial district in Hong Kong. (File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Hong Kong - Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators risked a backlash from commuters and retailers on Tuesday as lingering protests caused traffic chaos and sales slump in the global financial hub, with preliminary talks with the government suggesting no quick solution.

Hundreds of protesters remained camped out on the main road leading into Hong Kong's main government and business districts, the last holdouts after more than a week of rallies that attracted tens of thousands on to the streets at their peak.

Student-led protesters began lifting the blockades of government offices and retail areas on Monday as preliminary, behind-the-scenes talks meant to lead ultimately to formal negotiations showed modest signs of progress.

Over the past week, the protesters have demanded that the city's Beijing-appointed leader, Leung Chun-ying, quit and that China allow Hong Kong people the right to vote for a leader of their choice in 2017 elections. China wants to screen the candidates first.

After preparatory discussions with student representatives on Monday night, Lau Kong-wah, the government's undersecretary of constitutional and mainland affairs, said both sides had agreed on general principles for the formal talks.

"I think today's meeting was successful and progress has been made", he told reporters.

Protest leaders have promised to carry on with the occupy demonstrations until their demands are met.

"It has to end when, and only when, the government promises something, otherwise it is impossible to persuade the people to quit", said Hong Kong Federation of Students leader Alex Chow.

With trunk roads still occupied by protesters, alternative routes into key areas of the city have quickly become clogged.

Traffic jams on Hong Kong Island and across Victoria Harbour in Kowloon stretched back miles in some places. Passengers trying to get on to underground trains were packed tight as they queued up two levels and spilled out on to the street near the main protest site in the Admiralty district.

The 'Occupy Central' protests, an idea conceived over a year ago referring to the Central business district, have presented Beijing with one of its biggest political challenges since it crushed pro-democracy demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square in the Chinese capital in 1989.

Beijing fears that calls for democracy in Hong Kong could spread to the mainland, with China already facing separatist unrest in far-flung Tibet and Xinjiang. The Communist Party leadership has dismissed the Hong Kong protests as illegal but has left Leung's government to find a solution.

Sales slump

Retail authorities have warned that a quick solution is needed before the former British colony suffers a fall in October sales, a key shopping month that encompasses the Golden Week holiday period, for the first time since 2003.

The Hong Kong retail management association said late on Monday sales at chain stores had dropped between 30 and 45% from 1-5 October in admiralty and central, as well as in the nearby shopping district of Causeway Bay.

Sales fell just as sharply in Kowloon's working class district of Mong Kok, scene of some of the most violent clashes between protesters and police and pro-Beijing groups.

Many Hong Kong businesses were already struggling before the latest demonstrations, a monthly survey by HSBC and Markit Group showed on Tuesday.

New business fell for the fifth straight month in September, while firms reduced staffing levels for the sixth consecutive month. The rate of job shedding was the quickest in four months.

The protests have ebbed and flowed over the past week, with people leaving the streets overnight to return later. Police have taken a hands-off approach since 28 September, when they fired tear gas and pepper spray at protesters.

The protests have disrupted businesses and helped wipe close to $50bn off the value of shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange. The World Bank has said the protests were hurting Hong Kong's economy, although the impact on China was limited so far.

Read more on:    hong kong  |  china

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.