RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests are now into their third month, making them the longest lasting of their kind on Chinese soil since the 1989 Tiananmen uprising. But polls show most Hong Kong residents are fed up with the blocked streets and general inconvenience caused by the protests. What's more, many residents see them as a futile exercise that won't bring real change. NPR's Frank Langfitt has the story on where China's pro-democracy movement goes from here.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: It's graduation day at City University of Hong Kong - cause for all sorts of celebration. On his black graduation gown, Wisdom Cheng wears a yellow ribbon, a symbol of the pro-democracy movement. But even Cheng, who's participated in the protest, says it's time to wrap them up.
WISDOM CHENG: I think they should leave because it's been two months. The government still didn't reply. So I think it's useless keep staying in the protest area.
LANGFITT: Across the harbor in the main protest camp, dozens of demonstrators are sitting on the steps of a subway stop at midnight listening to a guitarist and pondering what to do next.
JESSIE HO: A lot of people here are very tired.
LANGFITT: Jessie Ho is 26 and works for a nonprofit. She comes to the camp every night after work.
HO: But they have formed a community, and they believe that they should either stay here together or leave together. And there's no way you can get most people to leave.
LANGFITT: In part, because it's hard to walk away empty-handed. China's Communist Party in Beijing has refused to make any concessions to the protester's demands for open elections. Some demonstrators want to shift from peaceful nonviolence to more radical tactics, such as disrupting the work of the government. But Ho says forging consensus in a spontaneous political movement is tough.
HO: Everyone believes in democracy here are, obviously. And when people are so hard-core about this, they don't want to listen to anyone telling them what they should be doing. It's just a whole crazy brainstorming session here for weeks now.
LANGFITT: Is anyone in charge?
HO: To be honest, nobody is in charge right now.
JIMMY LAI: We should consider the whole movement in different phases and end this first phase by retreating.
LANGFITT: Jimmy Lai also comes to the protest zone each day. This morning, he's sitting in a camping chair reading "The Autobiography Of Martin Luther King Jr." Lai and others say the next phase should include protesters going out into the community and winning more support, not continuing to irritate people by blocking roads.
LAI: If we exhaust the goodwill of the people, we will find it more difficult to come back to protest.
LANGFITT: Lai isn't your typical demonstrator. He's a 65-year-old billionaire media mogul. Lai owns Hong Kong's pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily and Next Media which mocks China's communist party in animated shorts. He says no matter how they end, the protests have changed Hong Kong, making the city more political and more polarized. An attack he experienced last week would seem to prove that. Several men came at Lai, cursing, armed with rotting animal guts.
LAI: In the spirit of the moment, they just threw the entrails onto my body.
LANGFITT: What did it smell like?
LAI: Very horrible, you know, very horrible. Even after a few days I still smelled it.
LANGFITT: The other big change in Hong Kong - people here have long been seen as pragmatic moneymakers. But the young generation appears more dedicated to democracy than many realize. Again, Jimmy Lai.
LAI: Even Hong Kong people like myself has rediscovered Hong Kong. You know, the young people has given us hope. The young people has given us a new sense of dignity, a new sense of pride.
LANGFITT: Now they just have to figure out how to leave the streets and move forward. Frank Langfitt, NPR News.
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