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Protesters In Hong Kong And Moscow On Their Motivations


Pro-democracy protesters took to the streets in two major cities over the weekend.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: First to Hong Kong, where thousands marched as police fired tear gas at anti-government demonstrators. What started as a protest against legislation that would've allowed extraditions to mainland China several weeks ago has now turned into a massive movement demanding political resignations and more independence. Beijing controls Hong Kong's government after the former British colony was returned to China over two decades ago.

Earlier, we caught up with one of the protesters. Her name is Chelsea. We're only identifying her by her first name for her safety. Chelsea is 19 years old, and she just finished her freshman year in college. She says what truly motivates her to participate in the demonstrations is how united Hong Kong is right now.

CHELSEA: Everyone in Hong Kong, really, like, from any social background and any age from - like, I've seen on the street, you know, children with a parent age 3 onwards, you know? They're, like, even on their dad's shoulder's or something - and like elderly men, elderly women. I remember very, very clearly this old man had a little sign saying the young people of Hong Kong have courage. And I think it's really touching. And people giving out free water and, like, stores along the way opening up their restaurants for protesters to rest and refill their water bottles or, like, to just act as, like, an emergency shelter when the tear gas is being released - so I think what really touches me is that Hong Kong people are all really passionate about our freedom and, like, democracy. And I think that really shows through all the actions. I think what really motivates me is just my love for the city. And, like - and I fear that, like, you know, people without the financial capabilities - you know, they can't leave. People who are richer, they can leave Hong Kong and move to another place, you know, in search of, like, a better government. But people who are, like, the working class, they really don't have a choice, so they are the ones who suffer the most. So this is why, like, I want to fight for them and the next generation as well.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Chelsea, a protester from Hong Kong. And now to Moscow, where over 800 people were detained yesterday after an unauthorized protest in Russia's capital turned violent. What prompted that demonstration? A number of opposition candidates were disqualified from participating in local elections. The decision infuriated Muscovites, who took to the streets to demand the candidates be included on the ballot in this fall's elections. One of those protesters is Nadine, a 33-year-old architect from Moscow. She says these protests were not intended to overthrow the government and that the people are marching peacefully.

NADINE: It was just about these elections. We were not doing anything, not throwing any stuff at police, God forbid. So then, at some point, police just start shouting that this meeting is not granted. Please leave this place, and don't confuse other citizens or something like that. And we're saying, we are the citizens. You are not letting us go through our streets of our city. And then, they just come by groups of five or six people and grab any person. Usually, it's men - young men, old men. Sometimes, it's women or old women. They sometimes even touch people who are from press. Of course, when you're standing in front of hundreds of policemen - they have helmet. They have the riot gear, and you are just in a T-shirt and shorts or trousers.

And, of course, you are awfully afraid, actually, very afraid because you never know what to expect because, usually - well, in an idealistic country, you are not afraid of police because they are protecting you. Here, you come, and you're afraid that you'll be taken for nothing. So it's really, really scary to go out there. But some people just have no other choice because we have to do something. And it's the only thing we actually can do because the lawful way to do that, to choose our candidates, is forbidden for us. So we only can go to a peaceful meeting, just stand there and ask to let them go through. I don't want any war or a revolution like some people want. I just want to go it like democracy's supposed to go. But I'm afraid it's a very long way if it happens ever.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Nadine, one of the thousands of protesters in Moscow over the weekend. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.