Hong Kong (dpa) – Over the past week, thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong have blocked government buildings as well as major roads in five key districts of the Chinese territory.
The protests have been dubbed “Occupy Hong Kong” or the “Umbrella Revolution” as demonstrators took the umbrellas they brought to ward off the sun and rain and to protect themselves from police tear gas.
Some protesters have said the demonstrations are spontaneous and leaderless, but there are still some prominent figures and distinguishable groups, with discreet approaches and objectives.
Joshua Wong, 17, a first-year university student and founder of Scholarism, is the most popular figure among young activists. On each night of the occupation protests, he has addressed the crowd from a ladder.
Wong was among the first protesters when he led a group of around 150 students over the gates of government headquarters on September 26. He was arrested before he could make it over and was detained for two days.
The leader of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, Alex Chow, 24, was also arrested. Chow has demanded the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, but his manner is more softly spoken than Wong.
He often makes allusions to Chinese literature, drawing from his studies in sociology and comparative literature at Hong Kong University.
A group led by professors and veteran activists called Occupy Central, which had planned on holding separate occupation protests starting October 1, have jumped on the bandwagon started last week by the student-led movement.
Occupy Central is a campaign initiated by University of Hong Kong assistant law professor Benny Tai, who first threatened to rally activists to block streets in the city’s financial district in January 2013 if China did not allow sufficient electoral reforms in Hong Kong.
Tai, 50, is widely seen as moderate in comparison to younger activists who regularly and more openly criticize the Chinese government. Speaking to dpa earlier this year, Tai said his goals for the movement were not to oppose the Chinese government but to convince them that allowing democratic elections would serve their interests in maintaining stability in Hong Kong.
“We may not agree on everything, but we are committed to listening to each other’s views and working to maintain peaceful protests,” Tai said of his group’s alliance with the students.
Tai’s organization also includes 55-year-old Chan Kin-man, a former sociology professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, a Baptist minister who became famous for his role in helping fugitive Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989 escape to Hong Kong and seek overseas asylum.
The main groups are now struggling to maintain order among protest sites scattered across Hong Kong, as angry residents opposed to the protests have begun to scuffle with demonstrators.