posted at 20:50
Author Name: Jennifer O'Mahony, Dennis Chong
Hong Kong democracy movement split in protest-weary city
With little hope of fresh dialogue between protesters and government, the spectacle of a small faction smashing up a side entrance to Hong Kong's legislature on Wednesday left a sour taste in a city where criminal damage is extremely rare. "The majority are against it. What they are asking for is reasonable, but it's causing a hindrance," said a 65-year-old gardener who gave his surname as Mo, waving a sprinkler as he tended to plants in public gardens around the main Admiralty protest site. In a reflection of residents' growing frustration, the protests have suffered a steady drop in popular backing - 83 per cent of respondents in a Hong Kong University poll of 513 people said this week they want the occupation to end, and just over 60 percent declared the government should clear the protest areas. Nightly rallies by charismatic protest leaders calling for fully free leadership elections in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory were initially attended by tens of thousands, and two more sites quickly appeared in densely packed shopping districts. Student leaders seemed initially mystified by the incident, suggesting a lack of co-ordination with more militant protesters, and only condemned it hours later by saying those involved had the responsibility to act in the interest of the wider public. The incident has also buoyed Beijing's supporters in Hong Kong, as China considers the protests illegal and has attempted to paint the protesters as violent criminals. Student protester Louis Tong has lived at the main protest site since its early days, and has no intention of leaving. "We should not retreat for the sake of retreating. Democracy is not just a mechanism. It should be a state of mind," he said, as two protesters on stationary bikes behind him exercised on what used to be a nine-lane highway.

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