HONG KONG—Pro-democracy protesters pressed their call Thursday for Hong Kong’s beleaguered leader to resign, with some threatening to take more provocative steps if their demands aren’t met by midnight.
Government officials, meanwhile, have said that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying wouldn’t step down under threat of protest and have placed responsibility for finding a resolution to the standoff squarely at the protesters’ feet, saying the protesters haven’t yet accepted an invitation to meet.
“We have opened the door already. It’s now up to them,” said a senior Hong Kong official on Thursday morning, referring to the protesters.
On the seventh day of street rallies and with little sign of compromise between the government and the thousands of people camped out across the city, questions mounted over what comes next. In a sign of mounting tension from Beijing, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper warned that the situation in Hong Kong could spiral into chaos.
From the pepper-spraying of an elderly man to the arrest of a student leader, these are the flashpoints that have shaped the so-called Umbrella Revolution as it unfolds in Hong Kong. Photo: Kenneth Li
Some protesters—angry over Beijing’s decision to effectively prescreen candidates for the election of Hong Kong’s top leader—say they are preparing to surround more government offices and stage sit-ins outside of the buildings if the midnight deadline passes with no response.
Early Thursday, some protesters outside Hong Kong’s Central Government Complex said that their plan was to prevent Mr. Leung from going to work on Friday, when workers return from a two-day holiday.
“We want to stop [Mr. Leung] from coming to work so he will talk to us and explain why the police used tear gas,” said recent graduate Ho Kit Ming, 23, who was sitting at the edge of a fence near the government building.
Organizers of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the two main student groups on the streets, reiterated their threat on Thursday to escalate protests if Mr. Leung didn’t resign by the end of the day. Organizers said they would surround more government buildings and attempt to block officials from coming and going to work.
The senior Hong Kong official said the city’s government was open to meeting with protesters, but only if the organizers drop their demand that the city’s chief executive leave office. “If the protesters insist on the resignation of Leung Chun-ying, the chance of a meeting will be very low,” the official said.
Leaders for Occupy Central, one of the three main protest groups, said the issue was nonnegotiable. “We have one condition: C.Y. Leung must step down,” Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai told crowds Thursday morning.
But not all protest leaders appeared ready to escalate their action beyond their current protests.
Chan Kin-man, a co-founder of Occupy Central also reiterated calls for Mr. Leung to resign but stressed that the movement wants to disrupt order in Hong Kong as little as possible. “We are careful to make sure the movement is peaceful and there is no violence,” he said in a news conference on Wednesday afternoon. “We all want to end this occupation as soon as possible.”