Hong Kong leader rejects protesters' demands

Pro-democracy protesters demanded that Hong Kong's top leader meet with them, threatening wider actions if he did not, after he said today that China would not budge in its decision to limit voting reforms in the Asian financial hub.

PTI| Last Updated: Sep 30, 2014, 23:12 PM IST
Hong Kong leader rejects protesters' demands

Hong Kong: Pro-democracy protesters demanded that Hong Kong's top leader meet with them, threatening wider actions if he did not, after he said today that China would not budge in its decision to limit voting reforms in the Asian financial hub.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has taken a hard line against any perceived threat to the Communist Party's hold on power, meanwhile vowed in a National Day speech to "steadfastly safeguard" Hong Kong's prosperity and stability.

He said Beijing believes Hong Kong will "create an even better future in the big family of the motherland."

China's government has condemned the student-led protests as illegal, though so far it has not overtly intervened, leaving Hong Kong's semi-autonomous government to handle the crisis.

But Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's rejection of the student demands dashed hopes for a quick resolution of the five-day standoff that has blocked city streets, forcing some schools and offices to close.

Leung's statement drew a defiant response from the students.

"If Leung Chun-ying doesn't come out to Civic Square before midnight ... Then I believe inevitably more people will come out onto the streets," said Alex Chow, secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, the organiser of the university class boycotts that led to the street protests.

Chow said the students were considering various options, including widening the protests, pushing for a labor strike and possibly occupying a government building.

Despite the hardening rhetoric from both sides, the mood last night as the crowds of protesters swelled was festive. Few police were evident, and those who were appeared relaxed.

Both sides appeared to be waiting out the standoff, as police continued the light-handed approach to the protests they adopted after their use of tear gas and pepper spray over the weekend failed to drive out tens of thousands of people occupying streets near the government headquarters.

The sit-ins instead spread to the financial district and other areas.

A brief cloudburst today cooled the air, seeming to energise the protesters, a group of whom shouted "Jiayou," or "Keep it up," and waved their cellphones with bright LED flashlights sparkling in the dark.

"We are not afraid of riot police, we are not afraid of tear gas, we are not afraid of pepper spray. We will not leave until Leung Chun-ying resigns. We will not give up, we will persevere until the end," Lester Shum, another student leader, shouted to a crowd at Admiralty, near Hong Kong's waterfront.