Hong Kong: In an apparent concession to authorities warning pro-democracy protesters to clear Hong Kong's streets by the beginning of the work week, students occupying the area outside city government headquarters agreed today to remove some barricades that have blocked the building's entrance during the week-long demonstrations.
But it was not immediately clear how significant the apparent truce was and how much it would defuse the standoff, with many protesters vowing to stay in the area. The partial withdrawal also appeared to be part of a strategy to regroup in another part of town.
Television footage from the scene showed a protest representative shaking hands with a police officer and the two sides removing some barricades together. About 300 demonstrators remained standing peacefully outside the government's main building, and did not appear to have intentions to move.
Across the harbour in Hong Kong's Mong Kok district, protesters appeared divided about whether to stay put or decamp to the city's Admiralty area, the main protest site. The atmosphere in Mong Kok was relatively relaxed as people began to clear out, though many said they were headed home and not to another protest area.
“I don't know what the next step is, but I will not retreat. The people you see here will not retreat,” said Burnett Tung, an 18-year-old student who has served as a volunteer at a food supply station outside government headquarters all week.
“The leaders of the movement are the citizens. We're leading the movement, not them,” said Roy Wong, 21, referring to some protest leaders who called for a retreat from Mong Kok.
Tens of thousands of people, many of them students, have poured into the streets of the semi-autonomous city over the past week to peacefully protest China's restrictions on the first-ever direct election for Hong Kong's top leader, promised by Beijing for 2017.
But with the standoff between the protesters and the government in its eighth day, tempers were flaring and patience was waning among residents who oppose the occupation of the streets and the disruption it has brought. Police using pepper spray clashed with protesters overnight, after officials said they intended to have key streets open for schools and offices by tomorrow morning.