HK protest leader vows escalation

By Aaron Tam and Annabel Symington ,AFP

HONG KONG — A student leader vowed Wednesday to step up Hong Kong’s huge pro-democracy protests — including a possible occupation of government offices — unless the city’s leader steps down within a day, as support for the movement grew around the world. The announcement came as tens of thousands of defiant demonstrators poured onto the streets on China’s National Day. “If our chief executive and the central government (China) do not respect and listen to our people’s opinion, we will consider having different operating actions in future days, including occupying other places like important government offices,” said Agnes Chow of the Scholarism student movement. Chow said the deadline for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was “today or tomorrow.” Chan Kin-man, co-founder of the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement that co-organized the demonstrations, said any escalation would be “an action initiative by the students” and called for it to be peaceful. But he ruled out any dialogue with Leung. “We can talk to anyone in the government except him … resign for the sake of Hong Kong.” Leung has faced mounting calls to step down and has been criticized for failing to engage with protesters, after their “Umbrella Revolution” campaign for unfettered universal suffrage sparked the biggest civil unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese city for decades. Wednesday was a holiday marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, and Thursday is also a holiday in Hong Kong. As evening fell, thousands crammed into a one-kilometer stretch between the Central business district and Wanchai. The Wall Street Journal reported that Leung’s administration is planning to sit out the protests — hoping they fizzle out rather than trying to clear them by force — on Beijing’s orders. “Beijing has set a line to C.Y. (Leung). You cannot open fire,” the newspaper quoted a source familiar with the matter as saying. “You must halt it in a peaceful way.”