Some Residents Turn Against Hong Kong Protesters
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are in their second week, and protesters are confronting mounting problems.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTORS)
SIMON: Police used tear gas and pepper spray. Now demonstrators have been confronted by angry residents who oppose their tactics, and there are reportedly internal divisions among the protestors. NPR's Anthony Kuhn joins us from Hong Kong. Anthony, thanks for being with us.
ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: My pleasure, Scott.
SIMON: First, just help us understand what's happening in the streets.
KUHN: Well, I'm just back from the streets of Mong Kok, a very crowded, bustling, urban district in Hong Kong where the action really is now. And since yesterday, the pro-democracy protesters have faced off and argued and brawled really with counter protesters. And there've been quite a few injuries and arrests. And because of these attacks - this violence, the student leaders pulled out of talks yesterday that had been planned with the government because they say that the government hired counterdemonstrators to attack them. And so they feel that the government is not sincere in dealing with them.
SIMON: Based on what you've seen, are they rent-a-thugs?
KUHN: Well, it's a very complicated question, Scott. You know, I spoke to many people who really felt that they were suffering economic losses. There's no question about that. At the same time, the police have told reporters that some of the people they arrested do have links to organized crime. There's no proof that they were hired by the government, but it's clearly a mix of people who oppose the protesters. Let's hear now a clip from Doris Fu with the Occupy Central protest movement about how they see this anger coming from the populace directed at them.
DORIS FU: We also received some complaints from the residents or some local shops because they think that we have caused some disturbance to their daily life. We're still balancing on how we can do our protests. As for them, we also want to let the residents to resume to their normal life as soon as possible. We are really keen on getting response from government with sincerity on the condition that they really want to negotiate, but not doing other dirty things on our supporters.
SIMON: Can the protesters, Anthony, just move to a different area?
KUHN: As you just heard, you know, the protest leaders do not want to be in conflict with the local people. The problem is this is a very diverse movement. You've got Occupy Central, you've got student leaders and you've got radicals who refuse to cooperate at all with the government. So at the moment, this area in Mong Kok, you know, the protesters are unwilling to give that up. They're unwilling to pull out. And so you have a many-headed sort of protests here, and not all the different parts are listening to each other.
SIMON: And is this a big setback to the protest movement to have this kind of clash with local residents?
KUHN: One of the tough things here is gauging how much this whole thing is costing the movement in terms of public support. But one thing is for sure, and that is that the government is able to use this to their advantage to say that this is hurting the city. The chief executive CY Leung gave an address in which he said government workers have got to go past barricades on Monday and get back to work. And he, you know, issued a call again for people to stop the violence and for the protests to end. So it's a very different situation from when the protests began a week ago and the police teargased the protesters. Now they're, you know - they're beset by internal bickering and also frictions with the local population.
SIMON: NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Hong Kong. Thanks so much.
KUHN: Sure, Scott.
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