HONG KONG (VNS) — Small knots of pro-democracy demonstrators remained on Hong Kong's streets on Tuesday morning after protest leaders agreed to talks with the government and dwindling demonstrator numbers dropped further.
The mass protests for fully free elections have brought parts of the city to a standstill for more than a week, with tens of thousands mobilised in support of the campaign.
But while many in the city remain supportive of the movement, they also want to resume their daily lives – and even protest leaders are now worried that further disruption could alienate supporters.
Tuesday saw another morning of traffic mayhem, with diversions still in place causing nose-to-tail jams and commuter frustration, truncated bus routes and the reopening of primary schools adding to the chaos.
Embattled leader Leung Chun-ying also issued another warning for demonstrators to disperse on Monday night.
The few protesters that remain are still determined to make their point – although they are unsure of the result.
"To be honest, I don't have confidence that we can succeed. But whether we succeed or not, I am giving my best. I also learned that we can speak out when it is needed," said Dickson Yeung, 20, who works as a customer relations officer.
"I disagree with what the police have done. I came here after tear gas was used," she said on Tuesday as students at the site clustered to read lecture notes and others watched videos on their smartphones.
Police fired tear gas at protesters last Sunday, triggering a massive outpouring of support for the students from horrified residents.
Student leaders held a second round of "preparatory talks" with a government representative late on Monday night, agreeing to move towards formal negotiations.
"We will have multiple rounds of negotiation," said Lester Shum, deputy secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS).
At the secondary Mong Kok protest site, which has seen violent clashes with triad mobs, there were fewer than 100 protesters on Tuesday morning, many of them asleep under awnings as commuters walked past them to work in the busy commercial neighbourhood.
Small groups also remained at protest sites in the shopping district of Causeway Bay and outside the government central offices.
A cabinet meeting due to be held Tuesday at the government complex was relocated, but workers there were moving freely in and out.
While some commuters have voiced irritation at their disrupted journeys to work, others are taking advantage of highways which have been temporarily pedestrianised by the protests, with some using the routes for early morning jogs, cycling and skateboarding.
"It's a refreshing change from the usually chaotic traffic," said a telecoms worker who identified himself as Lars and has lived in Hong Kong for six years. "I'm trying to make the most of the traffic-free road while it lasts." — AFP