Hong Kong leader urges protesters to go home, says he won’t resign
Despite mounting calls from pro-democracy protesters, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Tuesday that he would not step down and appealed to organizers of the Occupy Central movement to send their followers home.
Leung stopped short of issuing a deadline for protesters to leave the streets and said he would not deploy the mainland Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army, to quash the large demonstrations that have convulsed the city for three days.
Thousands of protesters poured into main roadways on Tuesday night, stretching from the city’s Central financial district eastward, past the government headquarters and toward the shopping mecca of Causeway Bay.
The demonstrators are rallying to voice discontent over rules imposed by the Chinese authorities that would limit voters’ choices in the 2017 election for Hong Kong’s chief executive, the territory’s top official.
The movement, which was presaged by a weeklong university student strike, exploded into massive demonstrations over the weekend.
On Sunday, police in full riot gear tried to disperse protesters with 87 rounds of tear gas, but the crowds quickly regrouped. On Monday, officers pulled back from confrontational tactics. Since then, the atmosphere amid demonstrators has been largely festive.
The Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the main groups behind the protests, has given Leung until Thursday to respond to demands that include rescinding the election rules. Failing that, the student group has vowed to escalate its action, including possibly occupying government buildings.
Protesters agreed Tuesday to clear away routes for emergency vehicles to use following appeals from fire and rescue officials. But organizers rejected the call to go home.
“I don’t see why we should have to put a stop at this moment,” Occupy Central organizer Chan Kim-man told local media on Tuesday. “If C.Y. Leung wants to end this, he should resign.”
On Tuesday night, many demonstrators seemed equally determined to carry on with the protests.
On Wednesday, mainland China and Hong Kong mark National Day, which this year celebrates the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China. Most Hong Kongers have the day off, which could add substantially to the crowds in the streets. However, thunderstorms were threatening to dampen turnout.
Activists from the student group Scholarism said they would attempt to attend a holiday flag-raising ceremony on Wednesday morning near the city’s convention center. After midnight, police were gathering in formation around the area.
Law is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Julie Makinen contributed to this report.
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