Occupy Central protesters hold up a giant head of Leung Chun-ying. Photograph: Alex Hofford/EPA
Hong Kong’s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, urged protest leaders to immediately withdraw demonstrators from the centre of the city on Tuesday, as they continued to call for his resignation.
Thousands remained scattered across Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mongkok. The organising group Occupy Central with Love and Peace has called for people to maintain the momentum of the protests into Wednesday’s national holiday.
Numbers dwindled overnight – after peaking in the tens of thousands – but by lunchtime on Tuesday more were arriving at the scene again. Some said they were protesting in “shifts”, giving friends time to go home and rest before returning. Others took the opportunity of thinner numbers in the early morning to clean the roads.
“Occupy Central founders had said repeatedly that if the movement is getting out of control, they would call for it to stop,” Leung said. “I’m now asking them to fulfil the promise they made to society, and stop this campaign immediately.”
In a short speech before he chaired the Executive Council’s weekly meeting, he sought to head off calls for his departure, warning: “Any personnel change before the implementation of universal suffrage is achieved would only allow Hong Kong to continue to pick its leader under the Election Committee model.”
The protests have been sparked by Beijing’s insistence that universal suffrage for the 2017 election of the next chief executive must be tightly controlled, with a committee stacked with pro-Beijing sympathisers picking a handful of candidates. Underneath that lie broader concerns about the future of the region and its ability to protect its identity and freedoms.
Written by Tania Branigan
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