Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying faces a deadline from student leaders today to resign or see an escalation of pro-democracy protests that have choked city streets for nearly a week.
In what may have been the biggest sit-in since the start of the protests Sept. 26, close to 200,000 people occupied three main protest areas last night, one student leader estimated. Police haven’t given any official estimates.
After midnight, several hundred protesters marched to Leung’s office where they confronted lines of police, while hundreds of others slept outside on roads and under raised highways. By morning, crowds had thinned, although enough people remained to continue blocking roads feeding the Central business district and the shopping areas of Mong Kok and Causeway Bay.
The protests were triggered by China’s decision that candidates for chief executive in the 2017 elections be vetted by a committee, which pro-democracy groups say will guarantee their loyalty to China. The protests swelled after police dragged off students who tried to storm the main square of government headquarters on Sept. 26 and then used tear gas two days later in a bid to disperse the spreading demonstrations.
Occupy Central With Love and Peace, an activist group, that had planned a massive sit-in in the Central business district for this week ended up joining forces with the students.
Leung’s ResidenceStudent leaders yesterday said they would escalate the protests and may surround Leung’s residence, which overlooks Central, if he didn’t resign today. This morning, about 100 police officers guarded the road outside the office, a rectangular low-rise block that’s part of the government headquarters complex in Admiralty, facing about 200 protesters wearing black T-shirts.
There were some tentative signs of possible negotiations between protesters and the authorities. Lester Shum, deputy secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, reiterated demands yesterday for Leung to quit and said that students might be willing to talk to Carrie Lam, the city’s No. 2 official.