Three founders of the pro-democracy protest group Occupy Central with Love and Peace called on Tuesday for students to end their occupation of city streets, even as student leaders vowed to continue protests.
The middle-aged leaders of the Occupy movement first raised the idea of using civil disobedience in the former British colony to press for democratic reforms last year, but student protest groups have been at the forefront of the two-month-long street demonstrations—and student leaders on Tuesday quickly rejected the idea of abandoning their encampments.
In an emotional plea on Tuesday, the Occupy leaders said they feared clashes between protesters and police were escalating at a dangerous pace and urged the students to stand down. The Occupy leaders also said they planned to surrender to police on Wednesday over their role in the mass demonstrations.
“In past few days, we can see the police are increasingly out of control. We don’t know how much more violence they would impose on occupiers. We hope occupiers retreat from the protest sites,” Occupy leader and law professor Benny Tai told a press briefing, jointly attended by the other co-founders of the Occupy group, Chan Kin-man, a sociology professor, and the Rev. Chu Yiu-Ming.
By surrendering to the police, “we will bear the legal consequences and hope the students will retreat,” Mr. Tai said in a prepared statement. Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former head of Hong Kong’s Catholic Church and a core supporter of the Occupy group, said he would surrender to the police together with the trio Wednesday. No pro-democracy lawmakers announced plans to turn themselves in.
Mr. Chu, 70, the eldest of the Occupy leadership trio, tearfully recounted the sorrow he felt over seeing images of police beating young protesters with batons and forcibly dragging away the demonstrators to stop their actions.
“This all made me, this old man, deeply sad. Many times, I knelt down on my knees to pray for God to protect us. And I hope all participants of this movement could safely go home,” he said.