The number of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong has dwindled today after a weekend that saw dozens of arrests and an angry backlash from business owners whose shops were shut down amid the demonstrations.
The South China Morning Post says: “Protest sites are quiet on Monday as some demonstrators leave for work, others remain and authorities keep their distance.”
And The Associated Press notes: “The subdued scenes left many wondering whether the movement, which has been free-forming and largely spontaneous, had run its course — or whether the students have a clear strategy about what to do next.”
The BBC refers to “hundreds” of demonstrators still on the streets in three main protest areas where last week there had been thousands or tens of thousands. The news agency says civil servants were returning to the government’s headquarters, which had been blocked for days by the protests. It adds:
“The BBC’s Juliana Liu in Hong Kong says the protesters appear to have decided to beat a strategic, possibly temporary, retreat — partly out of sheer exhaustion, as the demonstrations entered their second week.
“She says activists have been encouraged by news that student leaders have begun meeting government officials to lay the groundwork for talks on political reform.”
Those talks, first agreed to last week, were quickly called off amid violence from what students claimed were government-sponsored counterdemonstrators.
Although the talks appear to be back in play, NPR’s Anthony Kuhn, reporting from Hong Kong, says the two sides have failed to agree on the details.
“The protesters say they will stick to their demands for political reforms and free elections,” Anthony says. “They also want the police to protect them from the counter-demonstrators.”
The territory’s top leader Leung Chun-ying says the demonstrators must allow schools and government offices to reopen on Monday,” Anthony says. Hong Kong is 12 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast.
At a briefing Monday afternoon local time, police spokesman Hui Chun-tak said 37 arrests had been made in Kowloon’s crowded Mong Kok distract and that “[another] 5 arrests were made in relation to suspected cyber crimes, in a case where a link was posted online for people to hack government websites with,” according to the SCMP.
The arrests came after police threatened to take “all measures necessary” to break up the protests.