Protesters lifted a blockade of government offices in the heart of
the city, which had been the focal point of their action which
initially drew tens of thousands onto the streets. The civil
servants were allowed to pass through protesters' barricades
By late Monday afternoon, about a hundred protesters remained in an
area that houses offices for international banks as well as the main
stock exchange, although some students on campus remained defiant
and promised to return after classes in the evening.
"I hope students can persist. If we retreat now we will lose the
power to negotiate," said Chow Ching-lam, studying on the ground at
the protest site near the offices of the city's Beijing-appointed
leader Leung Chun-ying.
The protesters remain at a stalemate with Leung's government and
there was no sign of movement on talks that were proposed to end the
The protests have ebbed and flowed over the past week, with people
leaving the streets overnight to return later. The test on Monday
will be whether that pattern continues in the face of the
government's determination to get Hong Kong back to work.
"I don't think the protests have achieved anything particularly
substantial at this point – but at least we were able to put some
pressure on top government officials who seemed to be more willing
to talk as opposed to before," said Tsz Hong Lan, 20, a student at
the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Fearing a crackdown after city leaders called for the streets to be
cleared so businesses, schools and the civil service could resume on
Monday, protesters who have paralyzed parts of the former British
colony with mass sit-ins pulled back from outside Leung's office.
The main road leading into the Central business district remained
closed to traffic even though many protesters had left during the
night. Heavy traffic was reported on other thoroughfares.
Some banks that had closed branches during the unrest of the past
week also threw open their doors for business on Monday.
Over the past week, tens of thousands of protesters have demanded
that Leung quit and that China allow them the right to vote for a
leader of their choice in 2017 elections.
Facing separatist unrest in far-flung Tibet and Xinjiang, Beijing is
fearful that calls for democracy in Hong Kong could spread to the
mainland. The Communist Party leadership has dismissed the Hong Kong
protests as illegal but has left Leung's government to find a
The 'Occupy Central' protests, an idea conceived over a year ago,
have presented Beijing with one of its biggest political challenges
since it crushed pro-democracy protests in and around Tiananmen
Square in the Chinese capital in 1989.
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Protest leaders have vowed to carry on with the 'Occupy Central'
campaign until their demands are met.
DISCREPANCIES ON TALKS
While the protest numbers have dwindled, the status of the talks
remained unclear. Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK reported that student
leaders met government officials at Hong Kong University late on
Sunday but no clear resolutions emerged.
"It's clear there is still discrepancy between the expectations from
both parties towards the dialogue," Lester Shum, vice secretary of
the Hong Kong Federation of Students, told a news conference late on
Across Victoria Harbour in the gritty Mong Kok residential
neighborhood, protesters also pulled back from where scuffles had
broken out at the weekend with supporters of the government,
prompting police to use pepper spray and batons again.
The protests have disrupted businesses and helped wipe close to
US$50 billion off the value of shares on the Hong Kong stock
The World Bank said the protests were hurting Hong Kong's economy,
but the impact on China was limited at this point.
"What we anticipate is obviously a greater impact on the Hong Kong
SAR (Special Administrative Region), so slower growth in 2014 than
was being anticipated earlier," World Bank East Asia and Pacific
Chief Economist Sudhir Shetty said at a media briefing on Monday on
the latest East Asia Pacific Economic Update.
"But at this stage our best estimates ... are that there isn't as
yet significant spillover to the broader Chinese economy."
(Additional reporting by Clare Jim, Twinnie Siu, Elzio Barreto,
Charlie Zhu, Alexandra Harney, Clare Baldwin, Joseph Campbell, Yimou
Lee, James Pomfret, Bobby Yip, Irene Jay Liu, Farah Master, Diana
Chan, Kinling Lo and Venus Wu in HONG KONG, and Sui-Lee Wee in
BEIJING; Writing by Paul Tait and Jeremy Laurence; Editing by)
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