JNN 06 Oct 2014 HONG KONG—Student pro-democracy leaders urged their supporters to occupy demonstration sites Saturday night as police and government officials demanded an end to the protests, marking a hardening of positions with a day left before the city’s work week begins.
One of the groups leading the protest said it would consider talks with the government under certain conditions, but its leader, Alex Chow, said at a peace rally Saturday night that the demonstrators wouldn’t back down. “We don’t know what this despicable government will do, what they are capable of next. But we believe each time they use force, we will fight back harder,” he said. “We will continue to occupy.”
His speech came hours after the city’s embattled Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying issued an ultimatum to clear the streets by Monday.
At the epicenter of the protests in Admiralty, demonstrators who had spent several days and nights protesting said they expected events on Sunday to be critical for the future of Hong Kong’s democratic aspirations. Many said they took seriously the threat that the Hong Kong government could again use force to clear the area near the government headquarters, where police had first fired tear gas at students a week ago.
Student leaders told their supporters to gather Saturday night at that main protest site, and said the group should maintain control of two other sites where crowds have clashed with students since Friday night.
On Saturday there was more pushing, shoving and screaming in Mong Kok, where fights had raged through the night before, and Causeway Bay, which has been relatively quiet. Police in Mong Kok told the swelling crowds to clear the area after midnight Saturday, displaying signs warning that they might use force.
Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, including one carrying a Captain America shield, survey the scene at a demonstration site Saturday. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
The government didn’t have figures on injuries from the melees Friday night. The government’s official count of protest-related injuries, started on Sept. 28 and continuously updated, stood at 94 people early on Friday morning. It had risen to 148 people by the beginning of the day on Saturday.
There was no geographical breakdown of where the injuries occurred otherwise, according to a government information officer.
Lavanda Wong, 20, a second-year student at Hong Kong Baptist University, has been camped overnight opposite the government’s headquarters in Admiralty for the last five days, running a supply point and improvised recharging station where about a dozen smartphones were plugged in. If the Hong Kong government tries to clear the streets on Monday, she knows what she’ll do.
“Leave,” she said. “And come back again.” She added: “Safety is the first priority. If we’re safe then we can always come back again.”
Even if the Chinese government doesn’t give democratic rights to Hong Kong on this occasion, at least the world has now been made aware of their struggle, she said.
Many in the streets echoed her sentiment, saying that they planned to return to work and school on Monday, but head back to the demonstration when they were done.
Mimi Muk, 14, who boycotted class to join the pro-democracy protests in Admiralty on Tuesday, was at Saturday night’s rally in the same area. She said her school had “respect for those who decided to boycott class on Tuesday,” yet has announced that boycotts will no longer be allowed starting Monday.
Ms. Muk said she will return to school Monday but will be back once she is done with class at night. “My heart is always with Hong Kong,” she said.