GUANGZHOU AND HONG KONG - The fate of the Hong Kong protests is at a crossroads.
A new public opinion survey indicates 83 percent of people say pro-democracy protesters should end their street demonstrations. Even the movement’s founders have suggested protesters find other ways to press for open elections of Hong Kong’s top leader in 2017.
But some, like Christine and high school student Kenny in the Hong Kong district of Mong Kok, say they will stay and fight for their rights.
"I think the protest is to change the people’s minds. If Beijing [does] not do the action to change the Hong Kong, we will not … give up," Christine said.
Kiki agrees. She works in sales in Mongkok, then comes to the protest sites. after work.
"I know maybe we need to wait for a long time," she said. "But if we … hand down [give up], maybe the Beijing government can kill my sound [voice]. This is not what we want."
In the nearby southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, few people who spoke with VOA seemed to understand what the debate is over. But many are concerned that protesters have gone too far. Some even say it's time for a crackdown.
Others say the protesters do not appreciate the freedoms they already have in Hong Kong, compared to mainland China.
"They should come here and gain a deeper understanding of what our government is like. They only have a superficial view of what the situation is like in China," said one Guangzhou woman.
'Democracy is not the only solution'
Some were philosophical about the democracy debate.
"From a historic perspective or even looking forward, democracy is not the only solution. All of humanity, every country, every region is searching for a way, a system that can make society even better,” said a businessman.
"In China, we do not have a clear idea of what democracy is, not like in Western countries. Or to put it more precisely, the idea really hasn’t gotten into our hearts and we do not understand what democracy is,” said a local designer.
Despite the criticism Occupy Central is receiving in China and at home, 25-year-old nurse Cheng Mung-Oi said she does not believe the protesters are asking for too much.
"I’m just asking you to respect me as a person as the most basic part of a society, which is so normal, right? It’s very normal for me," Cheng said.
Where the protests are headed next is unclear, but for many, it's clear a longer political struggle has only begun.