Hong Kong pro-democracy movement fractures as leaders surrender

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The pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong appears to be waning.

Three Occupy Central leaders surrendered to police on Wednesday after urging fellow protesters, many of them students, to retreat for fear of violence. But not everyone is listening, as the protest movement splinters.


The police, after initially showing restraint, have become increasingly frustrated and aggressive in recent days. The government has called the protests illegal. This week, police and protesters came to blows in the Admiralty neighborhood, the main protest holdout.

Polls indicate that residents, who initially backed the protests, have grown irritated by the disruptive occupation in the busy Admiralty neighborhood.


"I think at this point the protesters have become too pig-headed and obstinate," Sharon Anne Lee, a 27-year-old Hong Kong Island resident who has helped care for protesters, wrote in a Facebook message. "I'm touched the leaders are taking responsibility for having stirred up so many emotions without really considering the repercussions."

The three leaders who turned themselves in — Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-ming — were released by police after filling out forms with their personal information. Some think the move will bring a quiet conclusion to the pro-democracy movement that was characterized by peaceful civil disobedience.

Chinese officials refused to buckle to the protesters' demands for open and free democratic elections.  There is little indication that continued protests will sway China's position on the matter.

"I hope we can show others the meaning of the surrender. We urge the occupation to end soon and more citizens will carry out the basic responsibility of civil disobedience, which is to surrender," Tai reportedly said after his release from the police station.


He said he hopes ending the movement, which might alleviate some of the tension in Hong Kong, will ultimately lead to more democracy in the future.

Not everyone is ready to call it quits, as leadership of the student movement fractures. Student protest leader Joshua Wong, who began a hunger strike on Monday, has vowed to reevaluate the situation but has given no indication he plans to retreat.


"It seems like many people are out on the streets of their own accord," Lee said, "and it seems like the movement has spiralled out of control for now."

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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