Hong Kong Head:Beijing Won't Back Down 09/30 06:18
Hong Kong's leader said Tuesday that China won't back down from its decision
to limit voting reforms in the Asian financial hub, dashing hopes that the
standoff between demonstrators and authorities could be resolved quickly
HONG KONG (AP) -- Hong Kong's leader said Tuesday that China won't back down
from its decision to limit voting reforms in the Asian financial hub, dashing
hopes that the standoff between demonstrators and authorities could be resolved
quickly through negotiations.
As pro-democracy protests that have blocked Hong Kong's streets entered a
fifth day, the unequivocal statement from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying does
not come as a surprise. Showing a willingness to talk would have made the
Chinese leadership in Beijing appear weak, which could embolden dissidents and
separatists on the mainland.
Leung, a Beijing appointee who is deeply mistrusted by the people, said that
mainland communist leaders would not reverse their August decision requiring a
pro-Beijing panel to screen candidates in the territory's first direct
elections, scheduled for 2017.
"The central government will not rescind its decision," said Leung, adding
that he wouldn't step down before then --- rejecting one of the protesters'
There was no immediate response from Occupy Central, the main civil
disobedience group, but said in a tweet that the broader pro-democracy movement
had set a Wednesday deadline for Leung meet their demands, which include
genuine democracy and his resignation. It said it would "announce new civil
disobedience plans same day," without elaborating.
Despite Leung's urgings that they disperse and go home, thousands of people
--- many of them university and high school students --- gathered on a six-lane
highway next to the local government headquarters.
The protesters' chief demand is that they don't want Beijing to screen
nominees for Hong Kong's leadership elections. They see the central government
as reneging on a promise that the chief executive would eventually be chosen
through "universal suffrage."
"The people on the streets are here because we've made the decision
ourselves and we will only leave when we have achieved something," said Chloe
Cheung, a 20-year-old student at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. "We are
waiting for the government to respond to our demands for democracy and a say in
what the elections will be like."
Student leaders planned to make their own announcement Tuesday about further
plans and demands.
Even larger crowds are expected to flood the streets Wednesday, China's
National Day holiday. The government said it was canceling a fireworks display
to mark the day.
On Sunday, police shocked the city by firing tear gas at crowds, but
protesters passed a peaceful night Monday singing as they blocked streets in
several parts of Hong Kong. Crowds chanted calls for Leung to resign, and sang
anthems calling for freedom.
Police said they used 87 rounds of tear gas Sunday in what they called a
necessary but restrained response to protesters pushing through cordons and
barricades. They said 41 people were injured, including 12 police officers.
"Police cordon lines were heavily charged by some violent protesters. So
police had to use the minimum force in order to separate the distance at that
moment between the protesters and also the police," said Cheung Tak-keung, the
assistant police commissioner for operations.
Officials announced that schools in some districts of Hong Kong would remain
closed Tuesday because of safety concerns, while dozens of bus routes were
canceled and some subway stops near protest areas were closed.
The protests have been dubbed the "Umbrella Revolution" by some, because the
crowds have used umbrellas to not only block the sun, but also to deflect
police pepper spray. Political slogans calling for freedom have also been
written on the umbrellas.
Many younger Hong Kong residents raised in an era of plenty and with no
experience of past political turmoil in mainland China have higher
expectations. Under an agreement set in 1984, before most of them were born,
Beijing promised to allow Hong Kong residents civil liberties --- unseen in the
rest of China --- after it took control of the city in 1997.
China's communist leaders take a hard line against any threat to their
monopoly on power, including clamping down on dissidents and Muslim Uighur
separatists in the country's far west, but it cannot crack down too harshly on
the semi-autonomous territory where a freewheeling media ensures global
Across the border, Chinese state media have provided scant coverage of the
protests beyond noting that an illegal gathering spun out of control and was
being curtailed by police.