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Occupy Central: Faces From Hong Kong's Pro-Democracy Movement

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters are maintaining an uneasy vigil Sunday night at three main protest sites, despite authorities' deadline to pull back so that government offices and schools can reopen on Monday.

Demonstrators have defied previous ultimatums by the authorities to clear out, as well as pleas from politicians and university administrators to withdraw for their own safety.

Some protesters agreed to retreat from the working-class Mongkok neighborhood, where they have clashed with angry residents and counter-demonstrators, and from the street in front of the office of the territory's top leader, C. Y. Leung.

But other protesters, who refuse to compromise, have remained at those sites – a reminder that the movement includes a fractious mix of student firebrands, their university professors, and older pro-democracy legislators (many of whom used to be student firebrands) – not all of whom are coordinating their strategies.

Whether the decentralized, amorphous nature of the movement is a strength or weakness is a matter of some debate.

The biggest group of protesters remains near the Admiralty district, near government offices. They point out that the police use of teargas against them last Sunday served only to bring more outraged citizens into the streets, and they doubt authorities would risk a similar blunder.

Below are pictures of three people I met at Admiralty today:

Benny Mok is a diabetic ex-civil servant who is on the fourth day of a hunger strike. He is not happy with the way the protests are going, and comments: "Occupying places is not our goal. Our ultimate goal should be occupying people's hearts."

Benny Mok in the  Admiralty section of Hong Kong on Sunday.
Anthony Kuhn / NPR
Benny Mok in the Admiralty section of Hong Kong on Sunday.

IT worker Kenneth Chungis manning a tent where volunteers are prepared to wash police pepper spray out of protesters' eyes. He notes that they're just volunteers without adequate supplies and training, but "we just want to help to relieve their suffering."

Sirius Lee (seriously!) is a student of public health at Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has set up a free phone-charging station at the Admiralty subway station. He mooches power from a generous store at the station, and he has cables to charge 80 phones at a time. He reckons he's charged 2,000 devices in the past four days.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sirius Lee, wearing a maroon shirt and white shorts, in Admiralty on Sunday.
Anthony Kuhn / NPR
Sirius Lee, wearing a maroon shirt and white shorts, in Admiralty on Sunday.

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.