Organizers of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have warned they will launch new civil disobedience plans unless the city’s leader stands down.
There was little sign of momentum flagging after the fifth day of the student-led protest, whose aim has been to occupy sections of the city in anger at a Chinese decision to limit voters’ choices in a 2017 leadership election.
Thousands of people thronged the streets as demonstrations spread to the neighboring districts of Wan Chai and Causeway Bay, with more demonstrators meeting in Kowloon.
Many had feared police would use force to move crowds before Wednesday’s celebrations marking the anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
Those fears proved unfounded and police stayed in the background.
The crowds have brought large sections of the Asian financial hub to a standstill, disrupting businesses from banks to jewelers.
There were no reports of trouble on Wednesday, but witnesses said the number of protesters swelled in the evening.
Student leader Lester Shum issued an ultimatum to the city’s leader CY Leung: step down or else face wider protests.
“We will escalate the action if CY Leung doesn’t resign by tonight or tomorrow night,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“We will occupy more government facilities and offices,” he added without elaborating.
“I believe the government is trying to buy more time. They want to use tactics such as sending some people to create chaos so that they would have a good reason to disperse the crowd.”
Riot police used tear gas, pepper spray and baton charges at the weekend to try to quell the unrest, but tensions have since eased as both sides appeared ready to wait it out, at least for now.
A government source with ties to the chief executive said Mr Leung and his advisers planned to soften their approach.
“It may take a week or a month, we don’t know. Unless there’s some chaotic situation, we won’t send in riot police… we hope this doesn’t happen,” the source said.
The Chinese government has justified the approach after US secretary of state John Kerry reiterated calls for Chinese authorities to show restraint towards protesters.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said no country, including the United States, would tolerate “illegal acts that violate public order.”
“We believe that the Hong Kong special administrative region’s government has the capability to properly handle the current situation in accordance with the law,” he said.