In Hong Kong, protesters are vowing to keep up their street demonstrations as some pro-democracy leaders pledge to turn themselves into police as a show of respect for Hong Kong Law.
China’s President Xi Jinping Wednesday called Hong Kong’s protests “illegal” and said that “law and order must be maintained.”
His comments were just the latest sign that Beijing’s patience with the demonstrations is diminishing. Among protesters, there is a belief that authorities could begin enforcing a court order to clear protest sites in the coming days.
Protester Pa Sha, who is with a group called Socialist Action, is camped out in central Hong Kong. He says the demonstrations will continue even if police succeed in clearing streets. “There might be a period of low tide, but eventually there will be a recurrence of the movement. As I said, probably the next round of voting by the legislative council on electoral reform,” he notes.
Hong Kong’s government has injunctions on the main demonstration sites. Acting Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said "police are preparing to enforce the law, including making arrests.”
This week three leaders of the “Occupy Central” movement, one of the key groups involved in backing the protests, said they will surrender themselves in an act of civil disobedience that still shows respect for the law.
Regardless of what happens in the coming days, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists say they are prepared for the struggle to extend into next year, when Beijing’s plan for electoral reform goes for a vote before Hong Kong’s legislature.
“The administration has not said when they will bring it to the council for a vote. It may be the spring or summer of next year. So actually it could be many months down the road,” stated Legislator Emily Lau, head of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party.
A University of Hong Kong poll released at the beginning of this week indicates that 70 percent of protesters believe the pro-democracy demonstrations should continue, while 79 percent of people in Hong Kong who have not joined protests believe the protesters should go home. Lau says the movement grew beyond what Hong Kong’s government, or the protesters themselves, initially anticipated.
“There is a distinction between civil disobedience and other illegal activities. But nevertheless we know that it is civil disobedience and we are prepared to take the consequences. It’s just that the whole thing has developed completely out of anybody’s expectation,” said Lau.
She says the previous police crackdown that used teargas against the protesters ended up causing hundreds of thousands of people to join the demonstrations, raising the stakes for any future confrontation.