The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 2, 2014, By Katherine Mangan

The boycott of classes that has unleashed tens of thousands of young people—many of them college students—into the streets of Hong Kong was meant to be a prelude to a mass pro-democracy demonstration that their professors and others had carefully choreographed.

Instead, the students’ action quickly took center stage, accelerating plans for protests aimed at paralyzing the city’s financial center in an attempt to win an assurance of truly democratic elections.

The unexpected surge of momentum has raised fears among some professors that the Chinese government will crack down harder on the student protesters. At the same time, it has forced some of the older generation to scramble to catch up. Among them are Benny Tai, a constitutional-law scholar at the University of Hong Kong who helped found a pro-democracy group called Occupy Central With Love and Peace.

His group, working with students and other activists, had planned a mass demonstration to begin on Wednesday, China’s National Day, which marks the founding of the People’s Republic, in 1949. But once the student occupation began, with throngs of young people carrying umbrellas to shield themselves from pouring rain, scorching sun, and the threat of tear gas, his group had to join in, he told Foreign Policy magazine this week. This time, though, Occupy Central was no longer calling the shots. “We were very clear that students were the leaders and we just stood behind to support them,” Mr. Tai said.

As the standoff stretches into its second week and tensions escalate, college administrators and professors are nervously watching and worrying. Some have attended the protests themselves, given students leeway to skip classes, and posted lectures online. Mr. Tai told reporters that on September 22, the first day of the boycott, his class was half-empty.

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