A small pro-democracy encampment has started to take shape ahead of a crucial vote on electoral reform. It has been 200 days since tens of thousands of Hong Kongers flooded the city’s streets demanding the right to freely elect their own leader, and 126 days since the police unceremoniously cleared the tent-filled villages after almost three months of occupation. The movement for democracy has largely been relegated to online forums and abstract discussions, but that isn’t the only place it resides. The handful of tents that remained in front of the Central Government Offices even after the Dec. 16 clearance has steadily grown over the past three months. Currently, 146 fabric shelters line the sidewalks of Tim Mei Avenue, where the use of pepper spray and arrest of student protesters on Sept. 27 was the spark that set the movement ablaze. Some have spilled over onto the sidewalks of Harcourt Road, which the protesters knew as Umbrella Square. Some of the most endearing elements of the camp, like an organic garden and a study corner, have been re-created.
And while the fervor of lore has been replaced with a quiet resignation, the protesters that continue to call the foreground of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Complex home are determined to make their voices — however small — be heard. “The government right now is doing many shameful things, and we want to let all the Hong Kong people know that we are still here, we will not back off,” says Thomas Hung, 57, a businessman living in the camp.
Hong Kong has been governed under the “one country, two systems” principle since it was handed back to China by the U.K. in 1997, meaning that its citizens enjoy rights like a more open economy and greater freedom of speech than their mainland counterparts. But Beijing’s refusal to allow residents full control over electing the city’s top political post of chief executive by 2017 has caused a resentment that continues to simmer long after the clearance of the streets.