The protesters are led by a group called Occupy Central...
Always good to have Vox around to get something neatly wrong. Here's my crack at it, as much to clear my own head as anything else: Friday & Saturday's attempt to storm Hong Kong's government centre was not originally under the leadership of OccupyHK, but organised autonomously by high school and university students as the climax of a rolling series of events designed to publicise and promote the class boycott that students launched in protest against the political settlement imposed for the 2017 full-suffrage Hong Kong chief executive elections. The organisers are clearly aligned with Occupy HK's wider ideals, but their main leadership came from the Scholarism group, which was originally organised among students to protest, successfully, against attempts to impose 'patriotic education' on the curriculum a couple of years back.
Occupy HK offered the students tepid support at best; they have, in fact, been backing down somewhat since the 2017 settlement was imposed. They decided to have a symbolic occupation of the business district on October 1, for instance, precisely because it is a national holiday, so no business is being done on that day.
And yet as the standoff intensified on Saturday, Occupy suddenly woke up, turned up at the protest site, and at Midnight on Saturday, declared that Hong Kong was now officially Occupied. This may help explain the extremely messy nature of today's events. A good many of the students at the site didn't much like the appropriation of their moment and drifted away – others of course were simply unprepared for an open-ended peaceful seizure of important bits of real estate - enabling the police to establish a stronger cordon around government offices and place blocking detachments to prevent protesters concentrating. What seems to have happened today is that protestors – still mainly students, so far as I can tell – got as far as they could towards Central and then decided to simply occupy wherever they happened to be, also targeting dispersed 'sensitive' facilities, like the local PLA barracks.
There are now occupations in Central, SheungWan, Admiralty, WanChai & CausewayBay on Hong Kong Island and in MongKok in Kowloon. Cops are Kettling protestors. Protesters are surrounding cops. What the cops seem to be trying to do is use tear gas and baton rounds to widen their cordons and slowly push and barge demonstrators into one place, though I've no idea where that may be, also counting on people to leave as the night progresses.
The demonstrators demands include the resignation of the Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung and the renegotiation of the whole 2017 process. This, needless to say, is a bit of a tall order. What it seems to come down to at this point is brute numbers. If protesters can field enough to overwhelm the Hong Kong cops, then we're at the crisis point – and I really don't want to think where that may lead. If not, then the cops can slowly grind down the protesters, assuming they have the patience for that. If the demonstrators can come up with an alternative series of protest actions at this point that don't involve direct confrontation with the cops, then they can de-escalate while keeping the movement as a whole going.
Anyway, we'll see tomorrow.