Alice Zhang, 28, has studied and worked in Hong Kong for six years and said the protests took her by surprise.
“I never thought a city could be that united and everyone could fight that hard for something that’s not just about personal interests,” she said.
She blames the increasing violence and vitriol on misinformation from both sides.
“Most of the protesters in Hong Kong are not anti-China, instead they are opposing the policies and plans laid out for Hong Kong by China’s ruling party.”
A landslide victory by pro-democracy candidates in recent district council elections showed the need for the government to address protester grievances, she added.
“The disturbances in the past few months are largely due to the ignorance and repetition of empty talk by the chief executive and her government.”
While some mainlanders head to Hong Kong for its comparative freedoms, others are drawn for purely economic reasons, and for them the protests hold less appeal.
Qixian Ye, a 30-year-old finance worker, said his generation had grown up with pride in China’s economic development, “which may make many of us believe it’s okay to compromise some rights for economic growth.”
Others are more direct.
Louise Liu, a marketing professional who came from the mainland 13 years ago, calls the protests a “manipulated campaign” that is “anti-China.”
“Is it democracy when people like me get beaten up when we speak our minds?”
PICTURES BY PHILIP FONG/afp