Hong Kong's Occupy Central founders surrender to police

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Media captionThe BBC's John Sudworth: "This is a symbolic gesture"

The three founders of Hong Kong's Occupy Central movement have turned themselves in to police over their role in pro-democracy demonstrations.

Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-ming said they wanted to take responsibility for protests deemed illegal by authorities.

But after a brief meeting they left without being arrested or charged.

Protesters have been demonstrating for two months over Beijing's restrictions on Hong Kong's election process.

The BBC's John Sudworth in Hong Kong says the surrender was a symbolic gesture and a way for them to show that the illegal actions they have engaged in was for a wider purpose and that they have nothing to hide.

The three men walked into the Central Police Station to turn themselves in together with Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who has supported the protests.

They left less than an hour later, saying they were being released without charge.

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Image caption Anti-Occupy protesters showed up at the police station with placards depicting Occupy leaders in prison uniforms

Mr Tai told the BBC that police officers gave each of them a form. They were asked to provide their personal details and tick against a list of offences. The men ticked the box for "illegal assembly".

Officers had told them that because they had not been arrested, the police could only collect information from them and would "invite them back to the police station at an appropriate time", said Mr Tai.

Some supporters followed suit. Police said a total of 24 people surrendered and officers told them to immediately stop illegal occupation of public places.

'Arrest them'

As they arrived, the Occupy founders were met by a large gathering of supporters outside the police station, who shouted: "I want true democracy!" as they walked in.

Anti-Occupy groups also showed up, greeting the men with jeers and shouts of: "Arrest them!"

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Media captionOccupy Central founder Benny Tai: "To surrender is not an act of cowardice"

Earlier, Benny Tai told a radio show that he had no regrets, saying: "In hindsight, I would still do the same thing."

He also told the BBC he was facing more than 30 legal cases from businesses or individuals alleging disruption by the protests.

Occupy Central led the street protests when they began in September, but has since receded as student groups have become more prominent.

The protesters want China to scrap its plan to screen candidates for the territory's 2017 leadership election, and want the Hong Kong government to renegotiate the political arrangement with Beijing.

Hunger strike

Announcing their plan to present themselves to police on Tuesday, the Occupy Central founders repeated their call for student activists to scale back their protests, amid sporadic clashes with police.

One protest camp in Mong Kok has been taken down by the authorities, but a few hundred protesters refuse to vacate the remaining two camps at Admiralty and Causeway Bay.

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Media captionProtester: "I can't just stay at home and watch"

On Sunday night and early Monday, hundreds of young protesters clashed with police as they tried to surround government offices in Admiralty.

Alex Chow, head of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, told reporters that student leaders would not follow Occupy and turn themselves into police.

But he added that they would discuss with protesters whether they should end their action.

Meanwhile another student leader, Joshua Wong, is on a hunger strike along with two female members of his Scholarism group to demand talks on political reform with the Hong Kong authorities.

On Wednesday, they read out a letter addressed to Hong Kong's Chief Executive CY Leung calling on him to "ease the agony of suppression and the lack of freedom [suffered] by Hong Kong people".

CY Leung's office replied in a statement saying it would "contravene legal procedures" to reopen talks on reform.

Hong Kong democracy timeline

  • 1984: Britain and China sign an agreement guaranteeing "high degree of autonomy" for 50 years following the handover in 1997
  • June-July 2014: Pro-democracy activists hold an unofficial referendum on political reform and a large rally; this is followed by protests by pro-Beijing activists
  • 31 Aug 2014: China says it will allow direct elections in 2017, but voters will only be able to choose from a list of approved candidates; activists stage protests
  • 28 Sep 2014: Occupy Central and student protests join forces and take over central Hong Kong
  • Nov 2014: Student leader fail to travel to Beijing; some protest sites cleared
  • Dec 2014: Occupy Central leaders call on students to retreat

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