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Backlash Fails To Deter Protesters In Hong Kong's Mongkok Camp


Protesters in Hong Kong are certainly under surveillance. They want China to let them choose their own candidates for free elections. The longer these protests go, the more we learn about the protesters' city - this crowded financial center on China's coast. Different protest camps have different personalities. One camp is known as courteous. When police told protesters to move their barricades, protesters helped to do it themselves. And then there's the camp in a gritty neighborhood called Mongkok, where people send political messages very differently. NPR's Frank Langfitt visited.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Armed with a court injunction, bailiffs could move to clear part of the Mongkok camp this week. But protesters there seem unfazed, and they've seen it all. When neighbors there tired of blocked traffic, they tossed objects from their windows to punish the protesters below - excrement, dead rodents, even hardware. Demonstrator Anthony Liu remembers.

ANTHONY LIU: They throw, like, feces and the dead body of rats and scissors and hammers.

LANGFITT: Call it political dialogue Mongkok style. Mongkok's a working-class neighborhood known for catering to mainland Chinese tourist shoppers as well as its ties to triads, or gangsters. Mongkok lies across the harbor from Hong Kong's Admiralty District that's home to the main protest camp which feels more like Woodstock. There, people play guitar, and lyrics from John Lennon adorn the walls. Anthony Liu, who earns a living playing online poker, says Mongkok suits his style more than Admiralty.

LIU: Mongkok is a very dangerous place compared to the Admiralty.

LANGFITT: And Liu sees that as a good thing. He says with China's Communist Party rejecting any of the protesters' democratic demands, people have to be tough.

LIU: I like the atmosphere in Mongkok because here the people is more aggressive, and in Admiralty, they are more peaceful.

LANGFITT: In Mongkok, pro-mainland groups have attacked demonstrators as have alleged gangsters. Protester Ip Man Chun says he comes here to provide protection to high school-age demonstrators. Ip weighs 220 and wears a black T-shirt. He says he and others use their bulk and a litany of curse words to fend off attacks.

IP MAN CHUN: The education level is not really high, so people may use foul language. I know that it is not really correct way to express their opinions.

LANGFITT: But he says it's a good way to protect younger students in the rough and tumble of Mongkok. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Hong Kong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.