Hong Kong’s Beijing-selected leader on Tuesday called for the pro-democracy demonstrators who have blocked major roads in the city to return home “immediately,” and he gave no sign that he was prepared to compromise on their demands for more open elections to choose his successor. Protest leaders responded with defiance, threatening to expand the demonstrations and to occupy government buildings.
In his first remarks on the protests since the Hong Kong police used tear gas against demonstrators on Sunday, Leung Chun-ying, the autonomous Chinese territory’s chief executive, called on one of the two main groups organizing the protests, Occupy Central With Love and Peace, to end the demonstrations.
“Occupy Central founders had said repeatedly that if the movement is getting out of control, they would call for it to stop,” Mr. Leung said. “I’m now asking them to fulfill the promise they made to society and stop this campaign immediately.”
Hours later, one of the protest leaders threatened larger demonstrators unless Mr. Leung met with the protesters by midnight. Addressing a growing crowd at the main protest encampment in downtown Hong Kong, Alex Chow, general secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, added that “residents may occupy various government departments” unless the government responds to their demands by Thursday.
The protests, which have blocked major thoroughfares for days in three parts of the city, started last Friday when university and high school students took to the streets, and they expanded considerably when Occupy Central announced early Sunday that it was joining the demonstrations, instead of waiting until Wednesday or later as it had signaled it would.
The protesters want Beijing and the Hong Kong government to scrap a decision by China limiting the scope of who can run in the 2017 elections to choose the next chief executive. China’s plan for the 2017 election would let the public vote for chief executive, but the candidates would be vetted by a committee friendly to Beijing, a requirement that is unacceptable to the protesters.