Civil servants back at work as numbers dwindle
Hong Kong demonstrators defy a government deadline to clear the streets by 6am but staff are allowed through to their offices
An anti-Occupy Central protester (C) scuffles with pro-democracy protesters
Civil servants returned to work in Hong Kong on Monday morning as the number of pro-democracy protesters dwindled after more than week of demonstrations.
Although hundreds of protesters defied a deadline to disperse by dawn and remained outside the government’s headquarters in the central area of Admiralty, they did not prevent civil servants from entering offices they successfully blockaded last week.
Hong Kong’s leader Leung Chun-ying had insisted the offices must reopen, warning he would ‘take all necessary actions to restore social order’.
As dawn broke, a handful of protesters partially blocked the entrance to the complex with barricades, but kept a narrow section open to allow workers to pass through.
“I’m happy the protesters opened the barriers today,” one female civil servant said as she pushed through. “I need to work.”
Student leaders were hoping that more protesters would return to the site later and have vowed to continue the occupation after an eleventh hour meeting with officials failed to produce an agreement for talks on the region’s political system. Demonstrators had braced for police attempts to remove them overnight, to end a stand-off that has lasted over a week. Smaller numbers remained at other sites.
In its statement, the government said it was ready to offer dialogue with the Hong Kong Federation of Students on constitutional reform, as previously agreed, but only if demonstrators cleared the roads and lifted the blockade of government facilities.
The federation also apologised to the public for the inconvenience the protests have caused. It earlier offered to open access lanes for government workers.
Overall the mood at Admiralty appeared calm rather than scared or defiant in the run-up to the deadline. “Of course we’re worried about teargas and violence,” said Erica Mak, a 21-year-old student. “But we want to stay here because we want them to respect our voices.”