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LIVE: Hong Kong protesters angered as police bring ‘riot gear’ into government HQ

Good afternoon and welcome to our continuing 24-hour Occupy Central coverage. The city awoke today to its fifth consecutive day of protest, with students warning that demonstrations could be ramped up if Chief Executive CY Leung doesn’t resign before the day is out.

So far, Leung has refused to budge, with students now threatening to occupy government buildings.

Stay tuned for all the latest breaking news throughout the day.

5.35pm. As suspicions deepened that police were beefing up their weaponry, spokesman Chief Superintendent Hui Chun-tak said they would not rule out the use of “appropriate force” if the situation escalates tonight.

However, Hui said the police would not use tear gas against protesters, after their heavy-handed tactics on Sunday generated public condemnation.

Responding to protesters’ threat to occupy government buildings if CY Leung does not resign by 11.59pm, Hui said police had sufficient manpower to protect all official buildings.

“We stress that police will not tolerate any illegal surrounding of government buildings.” he said, adding that firemen and police have been visiting the sites and that risk assessments had been conducted.

When asked if police were given a deadline to clear protest zones, Hui said “actions would be taken when necessary”.

4.45pm. Tensions and minor scuffles broke out in Tamar, outside CY Leung’s office behind the PLA barracks, after they spot police officers bringing in dozens of boxes labelled “batons” and others marked “flammable” and “corrosive”.

Suspecting they are weapons or riot gear, protesters shout “shameless” and “explain”. Later, police brought in what looked like canisters of rubber bullets, triggering suspicions they are preparing to adopt a higher level of force.

Police supplies are trickling in through a narrow path between anti-protest metal fences and the stone wall of the barracks. Officers are bringing them into the government offices one by one, in broad daylight, in front of hundreds of protesters and journalists.

As hundreds of angry protesters surge forward, police struggle to maintain the supply line. 

A student leader grabs a microphone and yells at police, calling them “liars”. Word spread that the riot gear was sneaked it via the ambulance that tried to enter the area, on Tim Wa Avenue, earlier. 

4.20pm. Police and protesters are in direct confrontation in Admiralty, as demonstrators outside CY Leung’s office try to block two police cars, escorting an ambulance, from entering Tim Wa Avenue. More than 100 policemen encircled the protesters – in the first row since the National Day flag-raising ceremony yesterday.

“We are here to help you. Give us a lane to let our cars in … [This is] a legal area,” a policewoman shouted. “Don’t clash with the police.”

Reinforcements were sent in to surround the protesters, which included radical lawmaker Long-Hair Leung Kwok-hung. Police claim there was a policeman injured in the scuffle. 

Leung and the crowd refused to give in and two police cars left, prompting a round of applause from demonstrators. The ambulance was left behind, still awaiting entry.

4.05pm. The government repeated its call for the Occupy Central movement to halt its civil disobedience action, following protesters’ threats they would occupy government buildings if Hong Kong leader CY Leung does not step down.

An administration spokesman said the government’s operations had been affected, especially as protesters have been surrounding the Central Government Office, Chief Executive Office and Police Headquarters.

“About 3,000 government officers will try their best tomorrow to return to office as [much] as possible. To maintain public service, the government headquarters must operate as usual,” the spokesman said.
“If the blockage continues and worsens, it … will affect public order and the provision of services to members of the public,” the spokesman said.

At 5.30pm, the government will hold a press conference to announce contingency plans for tomorrow, a working day.

3.45pm. How do business owners and workers view Occupy Central?  Here’s what people are telling SCMP reporters on the streets: 

Mandy Chan, 35, shop owner: “The sales of my fashion store dropped to [just] 1 per cent since the movement started, but I am not bothered. I support them. I join the protest every night after work. I usually close [my shop] at around 7pm to 8pm and go join the protest. I hope they would succeed very soon.”

Lam Pak-hang, 24, graphic designer: “I don’t think the protests will have enough of an impact to torpedo the entire Hong Kong economy. There’s more to the local economy than tourism – there’s logistics, finance. You don’t need crowds of tourists for those.

“Like us designers, it’s become harder to get our products printed and delivered but we’re still working.”

Tsui Wai-keung, 31, delivery man: “Sure, I’m worried about how the protests will affect the local economy, but if all you do is earn money and don’t fight for democracy, then you’re basically a robot. That’s not going to help the next generation.”

Chan Yu-wai, 21, recent graduate: “The protests will put a damper on tourism, but that’s part of the point. If it didn’t impact people, they’ll just think we have nothing better to do with our time. We want people to take this movement seriously.”

Shum Shu-wah, small and medium enterprise union member: “Business now is down 60 to 70 per cent compared to last year’s National Holiday and I’ve already lost almost HK$100,000 in the stock market since Occupy started. Why not occupy the parks and leave us alone?”

Cheung Chi-cheung, fruit wholesaler: “All the protesters told me is to bear with them for the sake of the future. But I am not sure if I can survive this now.” 

Sunny Lai Wing-sun, flower shop owner: “If this continues, it will be even worse than Sars. Business has been halved since Occupy began.”

3.11pm. Legislative Council chief Jasper Tsang Yok-sing announced in a press conference that demands for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s resignation would be “impossible” to meet.

Tsang said he had an hour-long meeting with Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee and Next Media founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying on Wednesday afternoon to discuss how to resolve the stand-off over the pro-democracy protests.

The Legco chief said Lee and Lai phoned him yesterday, seeking a meeting. The three met at Lee’s office in Admiralty. “They told me they were worried about the current situation,” Tsang said.

“[Lee and Lai] made some suggestions during the meeting but I believe those are very difficult to implement. We didn’t arrive at any encouraging conclusion,” Tsang said, without giving further details.

Tsang denied he was asked by the government to speak with the pro-democracy camps. “I would be glad to talk with anyone who can come up with ideas to resolve the existing stalemate. But I don’t see there is anything we can do to resolve the deadlock immediately,” he said.

2.32pm: China’s government is confident in the abilities of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, the country’s state-run media reported today.

A commentary on the front page of the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily said: “The central government will continue to be determined to support the SAR government led by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, and support Hong Kong police in handling illegal activities in accordance with law.

“This is not only for protecting national security and interests, but also for the interests of Hong Kong.”

The words of support for CY came after protesters demanded he step down today. If he does not do so students have said they will attempt to occupy government buildings.

The commentary added that upholding rule of law is crucial to the democratic development of Hong Kong, and the Occupy Central movement is a “blatant violation of Hong Kong laws”, is aimed at “putting the political demands of a few people above the law”.

2.24pm: ‘We belong to Hong kong': Thousands gather at solidarity events in 64 cities worldwide. Click here for the full story

2.12pm: Back on the streets, a crowd of around 100 people gathered at an impromptu forum on Connaught Road, to listen to a number of anti-Occupy speakers telling protesters why their actions were wrong. 

“If CY Leung resigns immediately, who’s going to take his place? The mafia probably has the largest voting bloc in Hong Kong,” said one man with short grey hair and a checked blue shirt.

Another man sporting a cap and a light green shirt, added: “The colonial governors of Hong Kong were appointed by the UK. What’s wrong with China choosing the candidates for the Chief Executive elections?”

Moderators had a hard time restraining irate protesters who couldn’t wait to jump in and provide a counter-arguments. Occasionally things became so heated the debate was put on hold until opposing parties had cooled off.

2pm: As the government and protest leaders remain deadlocked, with both sides sticking to their guns, Exco member Regina Ip said she could act as a middleman to facilitate the talks.

As the chairwoman of the New People Party, Ip called for an “open televised discussion without any precondition” between the party members and the protest leaders, including Benny Tai, Joshua Wong, Alex Chow, Lee Cheuk-Yan and Fung Wai-Wah (president of Professional Teachers’ union).

“As a political party (leader) as well as an exco member, I have more freedom to reflect opinions to the chief ececutive. I hope this open discussion could help to remove barriers for future talks,” Ip said.

Ip said she issued the invitation yesterday afternoon, but has yet to receive any responses, adding that CY Leung has been notified but that she is not acting on his behalf. She said Leung would not bow to demands to resign. To do so would set a bad precedent for unseating a leader in the face of a mass movement,” she added.

1.33pm: Couple from the mainland, who didn’t want to give their identities, decided to have an impromptu concert in Admiralty. They’re singing songs to show support for Hong Kong protesters.

1.15pm: Check out our gallery of Occupy-inspired artwork. Click here to view

12.56pm: Is the US really taking any notice of what’s happening in Hong Kong? Veteran Washington reporter James A. Barnes has penned a piece for scmp.com taking a look at the reaction – or lack thereof – in US political circles.

Notwithstanding President Obama’s “pivot” to Asia in foreign policy, the massive pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong have drawn a relatively muted reaction from official Washington. On September 29, White House press secretary Josh Earnest cautiously observed, “The United States supports universal suffrage in Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law and we support the aspirations of the Hong Kong people.” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, often a sharp critic of the Chinese government, tweeted that same day: “The people of Hong Kong deserve the right to choose their own leaders. Instead of a crackdown, Beijing should listen to legitimate concerns.”

Ho-hum.

Politico, the tabloid newspaper that closely monitors and caters to the appetite of the political class in Washington did not run a single story on the Hong Kong demonstrations in its Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday editions. Only a picture of thousands of students holding their cellphones aloft in front of the Legislative Council headquarters on Monday night graced Politico’s inside pages on Tuesday. 

Members of Congress are back in their home states and districts, campaigning for re-election and events overseas normally rank low on the list of concerns of their constituents. To the extent that Americans are thinking about foreign policy matters, they’re currently focused on the threat posed by the Islamic State terrorists and President Obama’s authorisation of air strikes against their bases in Iraq and Syria and his decision to send additional U.S.military advisers to the region.

That could change if the Chinese authorities order a crackdown on demonstrators similar to the brutal repression of the Tiananmen Square protests 25 years ago. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers would be quick to denounce any such action by Beijing. There’s no doubt Americans’ sympathies are with the students in Hong Kong.

But at the same time, the economies of the U.S. and China have become deeply intertwined in recent years and Washington is likely to continue to proceed with caution in how it responds to developments in Hong Kong.

12.40pm: A flashback to last night, with this atmospheric picture from SCMP photographer Sam Tsang. Click picture to enlarge.

12.10pm: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has denounced Occupy protests in Hong Kong as illegal gatherings, and warned the US not to interfere in the city’s affairs.

“We ask that the American side speak and act cautiously, and adhere to its pledges of not interfering in China’s internal affairs,” People’s Daily quoted Wang Yi, who is on a visit to Washington DC, as telling US officials

“The core of the current situations in Hong Kong is that some people have deliberately and illegally gathered in the busiest streets and districts in Hong Kong and severely disrupted social order.” Wang said.

He appeared to hint that unrest in Hong Kong was similar to the Ferguson riots in the US. “No country, no society would tolerate this kind of illegal activity which defies the rule of law and hurt the public interests; not in American cities, and not in China’s Hong Kong.”

11.53am: Anonymous hackers have declared cyber war on the police and Hong Kong government over Sunday’s tear gas tactics.

To the Hong Kong police and any others that are called to the protests, we are watching you very closely and have already begun to wage war on you for your inhumane actions against your own citizens, the video states.

To see the full story click here. Watch the video:

11.33am: What people are telling SCMP reporters on the streets:

Sophie Auyeung, 25, child care sector worker: “The movement has been a loving and peaceful one, and it’s a way for us to take care of our society and love our city.

“The government so far has no response. It’ll be a good strategy to escalate actions. I’m not worried that people will stop coming [to the protests] because they are clear about what they want this time.”

Li Lin from Fujian province: “The protest wouldn’t stop me from coming. People are expressing their views rather than causing a disturbance. I think what they are doing is good.”

Qi Shuping from Shenzhen: “They were still shouting after midnight. Our hotel is just on Canton Road. We could not sleep well because of it.

“At the Shenzhen border many tourists were stopped from coming here because of this. The protest has affected many people. It doesn’t do Hong Kong any good. The prosperity of Hong Kong will be affected.”

Chilli, protesting with her sons, aged six and nine months: “I’m here to show my anger to the police violence against protesters. The government is not going to react but I don’t know what else to do.”

11.15am: Benny Tai this morning appeared to be struggling with just how much leadership he should offer the Occupy campaign, which is now being widely known as the Umbrella movement. He voiced concerns after a number of angry demonstrators confronted him over the formation of an Occupy Central patrol team that last night attempted to remove a number of barricades.

The demonstrators said they were campaigning for themselves, not on behalf of any one group, and therefore should not be represented by marshalls from a single protest movement.

Tai said this morning that the protest area was vast and there needed to be a team in place to facilitate macro-planning.

“We cannot claim that we are the chief organisers,” Tai told the media after an hour of open discussion with some demonstrators.

“I don’t know if there is any historical precedent for the current campaign It’s not the case where someone can take the lead,” Tai said. But he added that the Occupy movement and the Federation of Students were resourceful when it came to organisational matters. “We may be responsible for overseeing the whole picture,” said Tai

10.50am: Share and share alike, or so the saying goes – unless of course China is involved. 

Messaging service WeChat, owned by Chinese firm TenCent, is allegedly censoring photos from the Hong Kong protests, according to Tech in Asia. For the full story click here.

10.31am: Tens of thousands of students have taken part in rallies acorss the US, in support of the student protests taking place in Hong Kong, writes Jessie Lau for the SCMP. Students organised rallies at more than 40 colleges through a Facebook event called ‘Wear Yellow for Hong Kong on October 1st’. For the full story click here

10.10am: Another minor clash between demonstrators and those against the occupation. This time police were called by a man in Mong Kok claiming to have been “besieged” by protesters as he ranted about their actions. Officers advised him to leave the scene.

9:32am: Some sleep-deprived residents are getting annoyed that the protests are keeping them up.

A  Mr Li who claims to be a resident of Sincere Building on Argyle Street in Mong Kok complains to media of noise during night time from occupy protesters.

“I don’t want this kind of democracy if I can’t even sleep at night or go to work,” the construction worker said on his day off.

Elsewhere in the city newsstand vendors are suffering, with suspended or delayed deliveries. Ms Ng who runs a newsstand at the junction of Sai Yeung Choi Street South and Argyle Street, estimated takings were 40 per cent down on this time last year.

A member of staff from a snack shop on Paterson Street said business was half that of a normal day. “There are fewer mainland tourists,” she said.

In TST there are now just 40 people occupying Canton Road. But one protester made it clear they were there to stay.

Dismissing the need for strong leadership, the unidentified protester said: “We are not Occupy Central, we don’t need a leader, we don’t need to vote to come up with a decision – we voted with our feet already.”

Meanwhile, a mainland tourist said the protest wouldn’t affect his stay in Hong Kong. He said he supported the protests because “we are compatriots”

“We’re not just here to shop, we’re here to expeerience the culture as well,” he said.

9.20am: A couple of the top stories from today’s South China Morning Post:

Beijing has cancelled all mainland tour group visits to Hong Kong as the Occupy protests rumble on, in an “unprecedented” move. For the full SCMP story click here

Beijing and Hong Kong governments have opted to play the waiting game in hope Occupy will run out of steam. For the full SCMP story click here

9.02am: A protester appears to have been taken ill at Tim Wa Avenue outside the chief executive’s office. Others have rushed to help.

Meanwhile there is a heavy police presence outside the government offices, where an intricate web of barricades has been set up to keep protesters and the media at bay.

There are now fewer than 100 protesters on Nathan Road in Mong Kok, according to an SCMP reporter at the scene.

8.45am: It’s a good-natured good morning from some of the police officers as they go off shift with a wave to some of the protesters in Tamar. Some protesters waved back and clapped, as an inspector at the scene said: “Thank you for your co-operation, media and protesters.”

Before the farewell police had spent almost half an hour persuading protesters to make way for their vehicles carrying in the new shift. Some protesters sat in front of the vans, only moving when an inspector promised they could take up their original positions after the shift change.

8:30am: A quick recap of the night’s main events:

* Hong Kong’s last British governor weighed in on the protests. Chris Patten told BBC Radio 4 it would be “crazy” and “stupid” if Beijing sent in the army to suppress the protests.

* Solidarity protests have taken place around the world, including in London where organisers said over 3,000 people turned up, and in Macau, where around 800 people gathered at Friendship Square to echo Hongkonger’s calls for true universal suffrage.

* Occupy Central leader Cardinal Joseph Zen reiterated that chief executive Leung Chun-ying’s resignation is the only solution to the ongoing protests. “CY Leung must step down, otherwise nothing can be concluded,” said Zen.

* Signs of tension appeared within the protest movement early this morning when four people claiming to be Occupy Central marshals attempted to remove barricades in Admiralty. Several protesters objected to the move and said there was no need to have marshals at a ‘people-run’ sit-in. “I don’t think we should treat the marshal team of Occupy Central as the authorities,” one woman said.

* Protesters around the city held a minute’s silence in memory of the 39 people killed in the Lamma ferry disaster two years ago.

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