A group of more radical pro-democracy activists have been demanding greater access to the main stage at the Occupy protest site in Admiralty.
The podium, where journalists and demonstrators gather each evening for speeches, has become a hotspot over recent days for disagreements between protesters. In response, organisers have set up new “open mic” policies, inviting anyone to voice their opinions.
Jack Lee was among a group of activists who confronted stage coordinators on Saturday evening with the intention of rallying protesters to occupy more areas of Hong Kong.
“I was sure I was not welcome here… It is a clash and I think I’ve exposed their wish to control the stage,” Lee said.
The 21-year-old history and political science student had responded to a call on the popular HKGolden forum website to occupy new areas of Admiralty on Saturday. Over two dozen netizens showed up, but their plans were thwarted by police. The group then attempted to gain access to the stage at the main protest encampment.
“They try to select and filter speakers not based on information, not based on their quality, but based on their views,” Lee said.
In response to the dispute, emcees announced on Monday that anyone will be allowed a five minute slot on stage each evening from eight o’clock. Hours later, a small group of activists stood on a bridge above the stage, showering the area with leaflets criticising how it is managed.
Brushing off concerns about possible rifts within the movement, Joshua Wong, co-founder of student activist group Scholarism, said misunderstandings arose because the netizen’s actions were “quite sudden.”
“We just told them that if they want to go to the stage, please give us notice before the assembly,” Wong said.
Activist Ivy Chan, who coordinates the nightly assemblies, said that the equipment at the podium is donated by NGOs and controlled by no-one. Despite being attacked online for allegedly preventing access, she said that anyone is welcome on the main stage.
“The stage belongs to the people,” Chan said, “We try to accommodate [and] cater to different concerns and views.”
Though it been a relatively trouble-free fortnight for the movement, Chan also expressed concern over the danger of broadcasting false information. On October 15th, she says stage coordinators were approached with false reports that police had fired tear gas on nearby Lung Wo Road to break up another attempted occupation organised on HKGolden forum.
At the Mong Kok protest camp where more radical political groups such as People Power and Civic Passion hold influence, some echoed feelings of exclusion.
Wong Yeung Tat, leader of Civic Passion, said that the stage is backed by the main pan-democractic political parties in Hong Kong.
“Of course, I’m not welcome,” he said.
The disagreements highlight an apparent lack of leadership in the protests, which have been ongoing for more than six weeks. Student groups and the original Occupy Central convenors insist that it is a leaderless movement where decision-making is consensus based.
Yesterday, it was reported that police may begin clearing protest areas this week.