Hong Kong Police Warn Protesters Not To Occupy Government Buildings

October 2, 2014

Updated at 10:55 a.m. ET. Possible Leung News Conference

The South China Morning Post says: “Government sources have told the Post Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor might hold a press conference at 11.30pm.”

The timing of the news conference would be just a half-hour ahead of a midnight HK deadline that protesters have given for Leung to step down. If there is a news conference, we will update you.

Here’s our earlier post:

Police in Hong Kong and China’s state media are warning pro-democracy protesters not to try to occupy government buildings in what would be a major escalation to more than a week of student-led protests that have drawn tens of thousands onto the streets.

The Associated Press reports: “Late Thursday afternoon [local time], hundreds of young protesters crowded in front of the gate to the government headquarters, spilling around the sides of the huge building and across the street. Many donned face masks and goggles, some had gas masks and rain capes — all precautions in case police might use tear gas and pepper spray, as they did last weekend to try to disperse demonstrators.”

The South China Morning Post, quoting a police source, said boxes of firearms for tear gas and rubber bullets appeared to be among the items moved into government headquarters on Thursday. Photos that appeared on Facebook appeared to confirm that.

The tense standoff came as a midnight deadline set by protesters for the resignation of Hong Kong’s leader, Leung Chun-ying, approached. Hong Kong is 12 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast. The demonstrators have been angered by China’s decision to approve all candidates for Leung’s replacement in 2017, rather than honor an earlier promise for open elections.

The AP notes: “Both the Chinese government and the student protesters seemed to be losing patience after the weeklong street protests, the biggest challenge to Beijing’s authority since China took control of the former British colony in 1997.”

NPR’s Anthony Kuhn, reporting from Hong Kong, says state media is warning of “chaos” if the protests escalate.

Hong Kong Police Chief Superintendent Hui Chun-tak told reporters Thursday: “We stress that police will not tolerate any illegal surrounding of government buildings.”

After more than a week of protests, student activists are still considering possible next moves, including occupying government offices. Pro-democracy lawmaker Albert Ho tells Anthony that in any event, the protesters won’t back down just because they are hot and tired.

“No one can persuade the demonstrators to leave without achieving anything material, so as to enable them to consider retreating with dignity,” Ho said.

Hui says police won’t rule out “appropriate force” if the situation escalates. However, The SCMP quotes him as saying the police would not use tear gas against protesters, after their heavy-handed tactics on Sunday generated public condemnation.

The official People’s Daily newspaper compared the protests in Hong Kong to the Arab Spring and Eastern Europe’s color revolutions, which it said were instigated by Western governments.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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