More join Hong Kong protests as holiday looms
PRO-DEMOCRACY protests swelled in Hong Kong yesterday, the eve of a two-day holiday that may bring record numbers to rallies spreading throughout the city as organisers press demands for free elections.
With the workday ended and temperatures dropping, thousands of people were returning to the three main demonstration points, blocking some of the city's roads.
Hong Kong marks China's National Day - the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China - today and the Chung Yeung Festival tomorrow, when Hongkongers honour their ancestors.
"It's quite possible that at least more than 100,000, if not up to 300,000, 400,000 people, will join the protests in a show of the people's power," said Willy Lam, adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
"They want to convince the Hong Kong government and Beijing that any use of force will be counter-productive. It will only galvanise more of the rest of Hong Kong's seven million people."
The movement, kick-started by students on Friday, swelled following weekend clashes with riot police, who used tear gas to disperse crowds. Student leaders said yesterday that the protests would spread if their demands for Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying to resign and for the government in Beijing to drop plans to control the 2017 leadership election were not met.
When asked whether he would resign, Mr Leung said that "any personnel changes" would result in the existing election committee choosing his successor, rather than through a vote.
But he dismissed speculation that the People's Liberation Army, which was used to crush the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations, would be used in Hong Kong. He also said that the city was preparing for the protests to last.
"The impact from Occupy Central would not be just three to five days - it could be quite long," he said, citing the protesters' roadblocks, medical-aid centres and supply stations.
The demonstrations coincide with Golden Week, a week long holiday in China when hundreds of thousands of people from the mainland travel to Hong Kong.
But it remains to be seen if business will pick up, with many retailers and banks closed due to the protests. Hong Kong shares also fell to a three-month low yesterday.