Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have vowed to keep up their occupation as a Monday deadline fast approaches, but are seeking compromise by offering to open access lanes.
The Hong Kong chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, announced on Saturday that the protesters would have to be dispersed by Monday morning so that life could return to normal. He said officials and police would take “all necessary actions” to restore order.
In a Sunday lunchtime statement, the government said it was ready to offer dialogue with the Hong Kong Federation of Students on constitutional reform, but only if demonstrators cleared the roads and lifted the blockade around government facilities in the Admiralty area of the city centre.
The executive council convenor, Lam Woon-kwong, insisted the Monday deadline was not an ultimatum, but urged protesters to disperse.
The student federation said it would not end the protests as no progress had been made on political reform and because the police had yet to address their handling of violent attacks on protesters on Friday.
Its leaders had originally agreed to hold talks with the region’s chief secretary, Carrie Lam, but called them off after the assaults, complaining police had not protected peaceful demonstrators. Police denied the allegations.
On Saturday night tens of thousands of protesters flooded Admiralty in one of the biggest gatherings yet seen, defying Leung’s order and renewing calls for him to resign. The mass movement has been the biggest challenge to Beijing since the former British colony was handed over in 1997.
Benny Tai, one of the leaders of the Occupy Central movement, told the crowd: “We only target CY [Leung], not other government officials. By opening a route, CY will have no reason or excuse to clear our occupation and spread foul rumours.”
Alex Chow, the student federation’s secretary general, said he hoped to talk to officials about opening up a pathway to government headquarters as a compromise measure. He said if violence did break out, the federation may ask protesters to disperse.
“In the face of violence we must remain steadfast and brave. This is only the calm before the storm, but the Hong Kong people here with us tonight prove our strength,” he told the crowd.
Joshua Wong, another student leader, said: “We are not seeking revolution. We just want democracy.”
The movement was sparked by Beijing’s decision to impose tight restrictions on the election of the next chief executive in 2017, but has also come to embody broader concerns that the region’s freedoms and identity are being whittled away.
“The ‘one country, two systems’ model and high degree of autonomy, these promises have been adulterated in the past several years,” Willy Lam, a politics professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong told AP.
Whether protesters will listen to the movement’s original leaders remains to be seen, as it has taken on a life of its own.
Source: UK Guardian