Counter-Demonstrators Raise Tensions In Hong Kong
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Today in Hong Kong, pro-democracy activists pulled out of planned talks with the government. That's after attacks by counter-protesters. Several dozen people were injured. As NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Hong Kong, this was the first backlash by residents to the days-long demonstrations.
ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Anger and tension filled the air in Mong Kok, a densely populated neighborhood of shops and homes. Large crowds of residents and counter-demonstrators surrounded pro-democracy protesters in the main intersection. Outnumbered police were unable to completely separate the groups, and several fights and scuffles broke out. A wiry 63-year-old engineer named Matthew Cheung stared angrily at the protesters. He says the student's activism is going to make Hong Kong lose the freedoms it already has.
MATTHEW CHEUNG: We don't like politics. We like democracy. We like freedom. But we have so much freedom now in Hong Kong.
KUHN: He suggests that the students should stop disturbing the peace and just get a job.
CHEUNG: We work so hard. I earn my living to feed my parents, my wife, my children. But what happen to the children now? They don't even earn one penny. What is their qualification to say democracy?
KUHN: Many of the counter-protests are people like C.I. Wong, a business owner who does business with mainland China. He says locals will no longer put up with the inconvenience and financial losses the pro-democracy protests are causing.
C.I. WONG: If you go on to strike for freedoms, OK, you go ahead. I also supports you to have more democracy, more freedoms but not to obstruct our daily life.
KUHN: He adds that mainland China is generally headed in the right direction. Confronting its government is counter-productive.
WONG: I went to China many times for business or for visits. And I find that the China government is changing, changing for good not for worse. That's why I support the government. I think like the Rome, it's not built in one day. We have to give time for the government.
KUHN: Among the protesters hemmed in by the angry crowds is computer programmer Alec Lee. He suggests that the protesters should now regroup near government offices away from small businesses and homes. But he says not all those attacking the protesters are as genuine as they seem.
ALEC LEE: These are not ordinary people. I personally believe they organized by pro-Beijing groups. They are being paid to attack us. Now this just my belief and most people in Hong Kong believe this. I don't have hard evidence.
KUHN: Protest organizers implied that the government had employed triads or organized criminal gangs to harass them. After the clashes, the territory's top leader, CY Leung, appealed to the public to refrain from violence and head home. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Hong Kong.
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