Hong Kong protests: Civil servants show support for democracy protests

A man walks past messages of support for the pro-democracy demonstrations on a wall, as protesters block areas around the government headquarters in Hong Kong, on Oct 6, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A man walks past messages of support for the pro-democracy demonstrations on a wall, as protesters block areas around the government headquarters in Hong Kong, on Oct 6, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong's civil servants have taken to Facebook to anonymously voice support for ongoing democracy protests on a public page that points to unease among some of those working at the heart of the city's government.

This comes as police said on Thursday that they arrested eight people in Mong Kok, one of the protest sites that has seen the most violent of clashes in recent weeks.

Bureaucrats from a myriad of departments - including the government's own information service, the police and the judiciary - have been posting pictures of their official ID cards with their names redacted alongside slogans critical of their Beijing-backed paymasters.

The postings comes as a group of 1,300 civil servants hit back on Thursday at their union bosses, who had criticised the protest movement earlier this week.

Publishing a statement in the Ming Pao newspaper, the group said they believed the "peaceful and non-violent principle" of the movement was being upheld by protesters.

Parts of the city have been paralysed for nearly a month by mass rallies and road blocks calling on Beijing to rescind its insistence that Hong Kong's next leader be vetted by a loyalist committee ahead of the 2017 elections.

The largest protest camp is situated outside the government's central offices, where many of the city's bureaucrats work.

One message posted on Facebook next to an identity card belonging to a member of the city's police force used a traditional Chinese idiom that roughly translates to: "My body is in the belly of the beast but my heart is with the people".

The post is by far the most popular on the page and by Thursday morning, it had gathered nearly 6,000 likes and 600 shares since it was posted on Wednesday afternoon.

Another photo showed a handwritten message next to a press officer identity card. "I want universal suffrage, thank you to those who fight for Hong Kong (democracy) for more than 20 days," read the note.

"Civil servants are also normal citizens after they get off work, we also want universal suffrage," added another with an identity card from the Hong Kong housing authority.

The page has garnered 13,000 likes with many commentators thanking the bureaucrats for their support.

"I am extremely moved," Hong Kong Facebook user Koey Sit commented on the entry by the police officer, while others called the person an "officer with a conscience".

- Protest support increasing -

Hong Kong student leaders said on Wednesday that they were undecided over further negotiations with the government following face-to-face talks on Tuesday that made little headway.

Angry confrontations between local residents fed up with the disruption caused by roadblocks have been a common sight in three of the protest zones where several main roads are blockaded. 

Hong Kong police said on Thursday morning that eight people were detained in the crowded commercial district of Mong Kok, one of the protest sites.

Police said the detained people were allegedly involved in 13 cases including common assault, possession of offensive weapon, disorderly conduct in public places and arson.

A poll published on Wednesday by the Chinese University of Hong Kong showed that support for the pro-democracy movement has  risen since the protests began with nearly 38 per cent saying they now approved of the movement compared to 31 per cent last month.

The government headquarters were closed for a number of days when the protests began after the sprawling harbourside complex was effectively besieged by demonstrators.

It later reopened with some of those working inside praising the protesters on their way in and others either scolding them or remaining tight-lipped.

Thursday's newspaper advert was prompted by a statement on Monday from two official civil servant unions criticising the movement for holding the city hostage.

The statement, signed by the two groups' heads, said protesters were being controlled by politicians trying to boost their own political support.

"You are lawmakers elected by the public. You should be working for the benefits of Hong Kong residents. But today you are taking Hong Kong hostage for your political capital," read the statement published on the union's website on Oct 20.