HONG KONG –- Hundreds marched on protest zones in Hong Kong Sunday calling for the streets to be cleared of pro-democracy demonstrators and for police to restore normality after weeks of unrest.
Wearing blue ribbons -– in contrast to the yellow ribbons that have defined the Occupy movement -– and declaring their full support for the police, the anti-occupy protesters marched nearly two miles through Kowloon towards the Mongkok protest area.
The show of support for authorities came after Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying declared in a television interview that the pro-democracy protesters were a “mass movement that has spun out of control.” The embattled leader also declared there was “almost zero chance” that demands for universal suffrage would be heeded by Beijing. He said he would not bow to demands for him to step down.
“We gather together here today because we are very disappointed and we need to air our frustration and anger towards the Occupy Central Movement,” said Leticia Lee, a co-founder of the Blue Ribbon Movement. ”So now is the time for the silent majority to come out together… to urge the government and the police force to clear the districts.”
“I want [students] to go back home,” Lee told NBC News, “We have already opened up doors for discussion [between the students and government].”
The group –- noticeably older than the student protesters they oppose -- received occasional burst of applause from some pedestrians as they marched and chanted slogans including: “We want our Hong Kong back!” “Support the police!” and “Clear the streets!”
Upon arriving at the student barricades at Mongkok, police made the surprising decision to allow the Blue Ribbon wearers to march into the student encampment, significantly ratcheting up tensions between both sides.
A thin line of police officers and orange tape kept the two sides apart as they yelled abuse at each other, with the Blue Ribbon marchers calling students “trash” and “American dogs” -– a reference to accusations by Chinese state publications and some Hong Kong officials that “Western forces” like the United States are behind the pro-democracy movement.
The Yellow Ribbons responded by shouting “Go back to the mainland” and singing “happy birthday,” a song students have come to sing to drown out opposition voices.
“It means nothing to us, we don’t care what they yell at us,” said Harry Sea, 22, a student protester. “We can’t deny that we will cause some inconvenience for this period of time, but if we don’t stand up to speak now then we won’t get another chance to speak out again.”