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Hong Kong Protests Pick Up Steam After Weekend Clashes With Police


We begin this hour with the growing protest movement in Hong Kong. Protesters calling for democratic reforms now appear to be in control of several areas. Riot police, who tried last night to clear the streets with tear gas and pepper spray, have since retreated.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Hong Kong that in addition to free elections, the protesters are also calling for the territory's top leader to step down.


ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: By nightfall here, the mood in the packed streets got downright festive like a rock concert full of black T-shirts and twinkling smartphone flashbulbs. But many young people say they joined the protests because they were outraged to see the police using to tear gas against peaceful protesters - 24-year-old Ivan Lan (ph) works in advertising.

IVAN LAN: (Through translator). I was here last night. I saw the police carrying rifles and firing tear gas, but we weren't doing anything. All we were doing was holding our hands up in the air.

KUHN: Early Monday, Hong Kong's chief executive, CY Leung, said in a videotaped statement that police had kept the use of force to a minimum.


CY LEUNG: (Through translator) In the past few hours, rumors have been spreading that the People's Liberation Army has been mobilized or that police have opened fire. These rumors have absolutely no basis in fact. I hope citizens will remain calm and not believe the rumors.


KUHN: Throughout the day protesters hollered, CY Leung, step down. Chinese University of Hong Kong sociologist Chan Kin-man agrees with them. He's a leader of Occupy Central, the main group organizing the protests.

CHAN KIN-MAN: As Occupy Central, we believe that CY Leung is the main obstacle of the whole political reform. He should be removed from his position.

KUHN: Leung is a British-educated former real estate executive. At a press conference yesterday, he insisted that he has carefully listened to public opinion. He added that China's central government has arranged for the territory's leaders to be elected by universal suffrage beginning in 2017. He said that Hong Kong residents should express their demands rationally and lawfully.


LEUNG: So as to allow the five million eligible voters in Hong Kong to elect a chief executive in 2017, for the first time in Hong Kong's history by one person, one vote.

KUHN: Beijing supporters point out that Hong Kong residents were never allowed to elect their governor under a century and a half of British colonial rule. But protesters are angry at Beijing's recent decision that candidates for Hong Kong's top job must be vetted by a nominating committee. Occupy Central's Chan Kin-man says this would give Hong Kong's elections about as much credibility as those in North Korea or Iran.

KIN-MAN: This is not going to be an open election. All the candidates will be pre-screened by Beijing. This is an international city. We want something that satisfies international standards. Don't fool us. We are smart enough, all right?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Foreign language spoken).

KUHN: We want real universal suffrage, protesters chanted. Chan says protesters are not planning to go home yet because CY Leung has not adequately addressed their demands.

He adds that once the protesters eventually do end their occupation of the city center, the occupy movement has other plans to push for political reform. But he says he's not ready to reveal just what those might be. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Hong Kong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn
Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.