HONG KONG – On the evening of Sept. 28, Hong Kong police struggling to hold back thousands of democracy protesters unleashed dozens of rounds of tear gas in a failed attempt to disperse them. When the smoke cleared, Hong Kong had changed. Many young people who previously were indifferent to politics say they experienced an awakening.
The student-led protesters are now ending their fifth week occupying the streets of this busy southern Chinese financial hub. Armed with nothing more than umbrellas and facemasks and camping in tents, they're locked in a standoff with the government over democratic reforms that seem impossible to win from Beijing.
Associated Press photographer Vincent Yu captured images of many of these protesters and asked them, "How has Occupy changed Hong Kong? And what's the future of the movement after the protest?"
HACKEN TSE, 38:
"It has increased people's civil awareness, but the youngsters have yet to learn many things. ... The development of the movement has come to a time when they should take a turn, but they still haven't realized it. Some people just want to get the aura of glory, yet have done nothing since the beginning. They don't know their rights and duty."
KELVIN LEE, 21:
"It has made many students begin to show political awareness. Me as an example, I've always been nonchalant toward politics. But since the happening of this movement, I've started to pay more attention to it. ... Honestly, in the imminent short term, Hong Kong will not have too many changes. But in the long run, this movement is an important milestone."
MELVIN LEE, 42:
"We have never been this resolute, never this determined. When Hong Kongers want to do something, no outside force can change it. ... This movement is reshuffling Hong Kong. Hong Kongers will be more concerned with issues on rights, and be more careful on its political policy. They will not simply allow others to represent them ... but instead will express their views by themselves."
SIMON CHEUNG, 27:
The attitude has changed, clearly. The previous protests were not on this big a scale. This time, it's not just limited to an ordinary street protest. We will continue to stay. ... It's either win or lose."
TABRIS HO, 25:
"Firstly, it exposes to public knowledge that the youths in Hong Kong are not like hothouse flowers. They can stand the test of hardships and challenges. ... Through this movement, Hong Kongers have a common faith. This generation will have a deep-rooted memory. Even if the National People's Congress (in Beijing) does not make any changes, the political system remains stagnant."
GWEN CHAN, 15:
"Many adults felt that the '90s generation and the '00s generation were useless. This movement has changed their views. Many people say that we receive payment (for protesting), but how would that work? Sleeping on the street for a month, the floor is so hard, don't you think it's tiring? There's no brainwashing now. Whatever I feel is right, I will do. Even if others don't support it, I will still come out. ... This movement will not succeed in one go, Even (Republic of China founder) Sun Yet-sen did not succeed in one go. We will continue walking down this road."
SUEN YUK MING, 20:
"At least it provokes politically indifferent individuals to participate in this political movement. The government would never have a dialogue with the citizens, but now that they are communicating with the students, at least something has changed. ... Even if we can't achieve democracy, this movement will pass down through history and become a reference for other social movements, paving a path for future protest."
JAY KOON, 19:
"Before Sept. 28, many people were indifferent to politics, feeling that the working of the government has nothing to do with oneself. However, after this time, they will realize politics have much relevance to oneself. More youths now care for Hong Kong. ... If needed, a large crowd of citizens are ready to come out and sacrifice. The previous demonstrations were like carnivals, but the future movements will never be the same."
KIT CHOW, 22:
"Before, most people were silent, and few people stood up, but today many Hong Kongers are investing a lot of effort for democracy. ... I am still relatively pessimistic. The government still hasn't come up with concessions, their position is very firm. ... The voice of the people is not able to enter the government's ear. Resistance is not just a one-off. We must persist. Then Hong Kong will have hope."
SOLDIER WONG, 21:
"Hong Kong people will not advocate violence. Everyone will express their demands peacefully, (and) there won't be any casualties. I hope there will be real political change. We must continue down this road."
MO (only surname given), 22:
"Many Hong Kong people have woken up. Change won't come from sitting in front of the TV and scolding. You have to personally come out before you can change the situation. ... I firmly believe Hong Kong people will fight for the things they want: civil nomination, universal suffrage, abolishing functional constituencies (the interest groups that get to vote in Hong Kong elections)."
SUMMER TSANG, 24:
"More people will be concerned about politics, more people will stand up. ... This time it's an irreversible change. So many young people have been fighting more fiercely than before, that from now on it will never again be as tranquil as it was before."
LEUNG (only surname given), 80:
"I think the psychology of Hong Kong people has changed. Their awareness of democracy has strengthened. This time there are many young people, from high schoolers to university students. You see all the students coming out, so how can old people not support them? ... The Communist Party has Hong Kong's government under its command. It's not impossible that they could send in the People's Liberation Army. Hong Kong people need to be vigilant."