HK's protest movement at a crossroads
HONG Kong's pro-democracy occupation is entering its death throes with radical splinter groups pushing for more direct action but others urging retreat, analysts said yesterday.
But regardless of how the occupation ends, the protests have already had a lasting impact on the city's political landscape, mobilising unprecedented numbers and fostering political debate, they said.
The largely peaceful movement saw tens of thousands take to the streets at its height, but violent clashes between police and protesters on Sunday highlighted frustrations as students have failed to win concessions on political reform.
Teenage protest hero Joshua Wong and two other student leaders have embarked on a hunger strike.
But the original founders of the civil disobedience movement took a step back yesterday, saying that they would "surrender" to the police and urged students to back down.
The Beijing-backed government has stood firm against the protesters, and analysts say that the fragmented occupation movement has entered a decisive phase.
Sonny Lo of the Hong Kong Institute of Education said: "Some will give in sooner or later, some will stay on and some will resist police action. There will be a real risk of more violent confrontations by the more radical wing."
Moderate pro-democracy legislators as well as the "Occupy Central" founders - two academics and a Baptist minister - have long been leaning on the students to back away from confrontation. The public is also growing tired of a movement that has proved disruptive to daily life and business.
But with student leaders anxious not to walk away empty-handed, there are those who will refuse to go away quietly.
Political analyst Ma Ngok warned that the government and Beijing's intransigence may now trigger a trend towards more radical protests even after the current occupation ends.
"There is a possibility that future protests will be more confrontational and radical, because people believe the more conventional forms of demonstrations - rallies and petitions - will not have any effect as the government will not listen to you," said Ma.