Hong Kong protest camp grows as political battle heats up

Hong Kong protest camp grows as political battle heats up

HONG KONG - With the battle over how Hong Kong chooses its next leader heating up once more, a protest tent village next to government headquarters is slowly growing.

It is a small-scale echo of the sprawling tent camps that paralysed parts of the city towards the end of last year, with some protesters keen to make their voices heard again before a key vote on the city's political reform package.

The government Wednesday announced its roadmap for leadership elections in 2017, sticking to restrictions laid down by Beijing which rule that candidates must be vetted before a public vote.

That decision by China's National People's Congress last August sparked 79 days of mass rallies and street blockades which ended in December.

Thousands of tents which had blocked several main roads were cleared away, but a handful remained on a street next to the government complex.

There are now a growing number, with one pro-democracy "tent census" Facebook page giving the total as 140 compared to dozens in December.

They are equipped with bookshelves, a water fountain and even a television powered by a solar panel - reminiscent of the infrastructure of the major protest camps which had everything from showers and a gym to art installations.

"It's not over. Not at all. People are still angry," said protester Thomas Hong, 57, who volunteers at the camp each day to bring supplies.

"We must do something even though we are not sure what we can achieve," he said, standing near a poster which read: "Don't forget the original purpose." A 23-year-old, who gave his name as Kit, said: "I still don't have peace of mind. I want to be here to help." Protest leaders have warned of more civil disobedience if the reform package is passed by Hong Kong's legislature in the coming months.

Hong said he was willing to take to the streets again - he was a regular at the main Admiralty camp during the mass protests - but was worried future demonstrations might take a more radical turn.

"The peaceful rational ones are feeling powerless now - I worry future protests may be smaller but more violent," he said.

Others were reluctant to take part in another street occupation.

"The government was not moved at all despite such a large-scale campaign," said student Ray So, 20, who was spending an afternoon in a study area at the camp.

"I am not sure if I will participate (in another round of Occupy)."

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