VOA’s Beijing Correspondent Bill Ide in Beijing spoke with Hai Yan of VOA's Mandarin Service, who is on the scene at mass protests outside Hong Kong government headquarters.
IDE: It’s been a long day of protests. What is the scene like now on Saturday evening?
HAI YAN: There must be tens of thousands now [outside the government headquarters] and they are calling on police to release the arrested students and citizens who began occupying Civic Square last night [Friday] and were arrested this afternoon. Right now, the police have basically withdrawn to the very edges because the gathering now is considered to be legal. But police say that after 11:59 p.m. - if people choose to stay on, they may clear the site by force.
IDE: So, while the protesters are not giving up, police are giving them a little bit of room, hoping they will disperse?
HAI YAN: That’s right, but it seems that now people are in high spirits and more and more people are coming. Also, several speakers have vowed to stay on until the rest of the students are released and until Hong Kong’s chief executive comes out to answer the demands of the students and the citizens.
IDE: This started out with students boycotting classes this week, but members of Occupy Central have also joined the students. Is it your sense that this could continue through next week?
HAI YAN: According to the three founders of the Occupy Central movement, they have no plan to move up the schedule for their protest, which was scheduled to take place on October 1st. But all of the co-founders of Occupy Central have vowed to stay with the students to the very end.
IDE: Which means this could continue to build?
HAI YAN: We will have to wait and see, but this is definitely a boost to the Occupy Central movement and a warm-up to that rally.
IDE: What are some of the protesters saying about why they are there?
HAI YAN: They are saying that they want true democracy, not a so-called one man, one vote election in which the candidates for chief executive would be chosen by Beijing. They want real democracy and true universal suffrage, where people will choose the candidates and vote for them.
IDE: What do they say, though, about the possible risks if police take an even tougher tack?
HAI YAN: Most of them are determined to stay on and fight for true democracy, and some say they are willing to make personal sacrifices. Also, some of them say they are proud to be here because they are making history in the civil disobedience movement in Hong Kong and in the fight for democracy.
IDE: Protests are not uncommon in Hong Kong, and you’ve seen many different protests there before. Is there anything significant, though, about this gathering?
HAI YAN: Right now most of the participants are students and younger Hong Kong residents. There are a lot of middle-aged and senior citizen participants as well, but it seems that most are younger Hong Kong residents. And that is something that should grab the attention of Beijing and the Hong Kong government, because future generations will not be as obedient as many of the older generation right now in Hong Kong.