Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Thousands of people have occupied the area around Hong Kong's parliament buildings this morning after the official launch of the campaign of civil disobedience by Occupy Central. The announcement was made by Benny Tai, a leader of the nonviolent movement, 1.45am this morning (see photo). In front of a crowd of thousands of people gathered in the Admiralty zone, he said: "I have long-awaited news: Occupy Central starts now ... Students and people who support democracy are beginning a new era of civil disobedience".
The campaign was scheduled to begin October 1, but was brought forward in solidarity with
students who have been striking for a week and who
clashed with police in Civic Square around government buildings in the
night between 26 and 27 September,
in an attempt to force the governor Leung Chun-ying
to talk to them.
Police blocked 61 students surrounding them with metal barricades, not even allowing them to leave to use the toilet. Other groups of students were charged with pepper spray and batons. Three students are still being detained: Joshua Wong, 17, a leader of the Scholarism group; Alex Chow and Lester Shum, leaders of the Students Federation. There are no charges against them and Joshua's parents claim police are holding their son as a political move.
Originally, Occupy Central had no intention of involving school and
university students in the civil disobedience, because
of their young age and a certain tendency towards anarchism,
but police violence has prompted a change.
Card. Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, who is taking part in the civil disobedience, has urged everyone to remain united in their demand for full democracy for the people of the territory. Politician Martin Lee, a Catholic Democrat, has also come out in support of this people's movement as has entrepreneur Jimmy Lai, a Catholic too, under investigation for corruption for having supported the democratic movement for years with generous donations.
Occupy Central has two demands:
that the Chinese parliament, which has ruled out universal suffrage for Hong Kong,
overturn its decision from August 31; the second
is that it relaunch the process of political
reform in the region.
In the past, Beijing had promised that democratic elections would be held by 2017,. Last August, the National People's Congress - China's parliament - decided that the entire population of Hong Kong would be allow elect the new governor, but only three candidates would be put forward chosen by a pro-Beijing committee.
The first stage of the campaign of civil disobedience is to occupy the area
in front of government offices. The
current governor, Leung Chun-ying has been singled
out as responsible for the deteriorating
situation. First of all, months
ago, meeting with Chinese leaders, he failed to present the real situation in the territory, keeping his mouth shut about the real desire for democracy, manifested by an unofficial referendum,
which gathered more than 800 thousand
votes. Secondly, in
recent days he has refused to meet with students, indirectly
contributing to the tensions and clashes
between students and police.
So far he has cancelled all public events, for fear of being challenged.
Thousands of people are visiting the sit-in of the students and Occupy Central even bringing the participants food and drink.
The police, in an attempt to curb these protests, announced that "any public meeting of
more than 50 people and marches with more than 30 participants will require
our permission. Without this, they
will be considered unauthorized and therefore unlawful".
Thus everyone is waiting for more clashes and charges from the police.
Nine cities around the world have marched in support of democracy in Hong Kong. Xinhua, China's official news agency, has not published one word about Occupy Central.