In a risky move, three student leaders of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests plan to travel to Beijing on Saturday to seek direct talks with top Chinese officials.
Hong Kong Federation of Students chief Alex Chow said he and members Nathan Law and Eason Chung wanted to go to the Chinese capital to directly express Hong Kong people's demands for "true democracy."
Top Communist Party officials including President Xi Jinping have denounced the demonstrations as illegal and claimed "foreign forces," including the United States, have helped instigate the protests.
Demonstrators in Hong Kong took to the streets in late September to express their anger over a National People's Congress decision the month before to require a screening process for candidates for the territory's next chief executive election in 2017. Critics say the screening will ensure that only candidates approved by Beijing will be allowed to run.
A dialogue between Hong Kong officials and some student protest leaders last month yielded no progress in resolving the impasse.
The students said they wish to meet with Premier Li Keqiang, or members of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, and would take with them yellow banners from three occupied zones which, they say, represent the people's views. It was unclear where specifically they planned to go or if they planned to attempt to display the banners publicly. Doing so would presumably result in their arrest or expulsion from the mainland.
The student leaders said they wanted to stress their view that the August decision was unconstitutional, and reiterated calls for Beijing to withdraw it.
The trio tentatively plans to go to Beijing for three days. Chow said they have the necessary travel permits but he was not sure whether they would be granted entry. But being turned back at the airport, he said, would send a message that Beijing had completely rejected the voice of the people of Hong Kong.
He said the three activists were prepared to face detention, or even jail time, on the mainland.
Meanwhile, police are expected to execute a high court order no sooner than Monday to remove barricades set up by protesters in the Mong Kok and Admiralty areas of Hong Kong.
The high court has ruled that police can arrest protesters who refuse to leave the occupied zones. But the orders must be published in newspapers first and the earliest that can happen is Monday.
Special correspondent Hui reported from Hong Kong and Times staff writer Makinen from Beijing.