HONG KONG (AP) – Student leaders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests warned that if the territory’s top official doesn’t resign by Thursday they will step up their actions, including occupying several important government buildings.
By raising the stakes in the standoff, the protesters are risking another round of confrontation with police, who are unlikely to allow government buildings to be stormed. It also puts pressure on the Chinese government, which so far has said little beyond declaring the protests illegal and backing Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s attempts to end them.
But Chinese state media indicated that the central government may be losing patience with the protests, and urged support for decisive action to end them.
An editorial solemnly read on China’s main TV broadcaster CCTV said all Hong Kong residents should support authorities to “deploy police enforcement decisively” and “restore the social order in Hong Kong as soon as possible”.
The student leaders have played a key role in organising the protests to press for greater electoral reforms. The demonstrations pose the stiffest challenge to Beijing’s authority since China took control of the former British colony in 1997.
Lester Shum, vice secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said the students would welcome an opportunity to speak to a Chinese central government official.
“However, we ask them to come to the square and speak to the masses,” Shum told reporters. “This is a movement of Hong Kongers and not led by any specific group.”
Shum demanded that Leung resign by the end of Thursday. He said there was “no room for dialogue” with Leung because he had ordered police to fire tear gas at protesters over the weekend.
“Leung Chun-ying must step down. If he doesn’t resign by tomorrow we will step up our actions, such as by occupying several important government buildings,” he said, adding that demonstrators would not interfere with “essential” government agencies, such as hospitals and social welfare offices.