Sunday, October 5, 2014 7:33 am
A deadline for pro-democracy demonstrators to clear Hong Kong’s barricaded streets loomed Sunday, as the Beijing-backed leader claimed the disorder now risked “serious consequences” for public safety and Chinese state media said it had ruined the city’s image.
Embattled Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the government was determined to “take all necessary actions to restore social order” and allow residents to “return to their normal work and life”. In particular he pointed to the need to allow government staff to resume work by Monday morning.
Only a few hundred were on the streets early Sunday afternoon in the downtown Admiralty district near the government headquarters. Hours earlier tens of thousands had turned out there in the biggest gathering yet of the week-long protest.
But it remained to be seen whether protesters had heeded Leung’s call or merely headed home for some rest before taking to the streets again, which has been the pattern all week.
Those there said they had no intention of leaving.
“I don’t know the police’s strategy, but I’ve told my friends and students that we have to be here tonight,” said Petula Ho, an associate professor at Hong Kong University (HKU).
“Students don’t have to be in dangerous areas in the front, but we must be here.”
Nixon Leung, a 22-year-old masters student at HKU, said: “I’m worried about the threat from CY, but I’m not going to leave because we are fighting for our values and genuine universal suffrage.
“We must continue our fight. The government has not responded to our demands for civil nomination and for CY to step down, but have constantly asked us to retreat. We simply cannot accept that.”
The protesters are demanding the right to nominate who can run as Hong Kong’s next leader in 2017 elections.
The Communist government of China, which regained sovereignty over Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, insists that only pre-approved candidates will be able to stand and has repeatedly said the protests are doomed to fail.