Pro-Democracy Demonstrators Dig Deep, Hold Ground in Hong Kong

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Pro-Democracy Demonstrators Dig Deep, Hold Ground in Hong Kong

Crowds again swell as chief executive says he won't resign and Chinese government refuses to budge on election reforms

Protesters are angry at changes to Hong Kong's political system which will allow direct elections but only from a pool of candidates approved by Beijing. (Photo: AFP/Getty)

The pro-democracy crowds in central Hong Kong are growing, not shrinking, after more than three days of sustained protest.

Even heavy rains and thunder storms that soaked the city on Tuesday could not shake the determination of the crowds. As the South China Morning Post reports on its live coverage page:

The downpour has failed to dampen the mood at Occupy camps throughout the city. Many remarked they were not called the "Umbrella Movement" for nothing.

Felix Ip, a striking worker on Harcourt Road, said he had nothing to fear. "We are not afraid of tear gas, why would we afraid of lightning. We have umbrella and raincoat, and will not afraid of the rain," he said.

Every time there was a thunderclap, people keep cheering.

Another student on Nathan Road said of the downpour: "We have brought umbrellas. This is called the 'umbrella revolution, after all."

Despite a call earlier on Tuesday by Leung Chun-ying, the chief executive of Hong Kong, that demonstrators should end their barricaded sit-in in the city's center, those rallying under the name 'Occupy Central with Peace and Love' appear to be digging in, not giving up.

Leung gave a brief public speech in which he said he would not resign, as protesters have demanded, but said that the protests are proving disruptive to their fellow citizens and should end. Backed by leaders in Beijing, Leung acknowledged that the protesters appeared to have staying-power, but said demands for more control over the elected leadership and governance of Hong Kong will not be entertained by leaders in China.

"The central government will not rescind its decision," Leung said.

According to the Post:

The chief executive has been emboldened by the support of the central government, which was reiterated in a report by the state-run Hong Kong China News Agency on Monday evening.

Leung continued to enjoy “the full trust” and “unwavering support” of the central government, an unidentified spokesman at the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said, according to a two-sentence report.

The statement comes hours after Hua Chunyu, spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, referred questions related to Hong Kong’s protests to the office on Monday afternoon, saying the turmoil in the city was a domestic matter.

The office last spoke out on Sunday, condemning the civil disobedience movement as an illegal action and expressing its confidence in the Hong Kong government’s ability to deal with the protests according to the law.

The protesters meanwhile, who are sparking solidarity protests worldwide for their courageous stand against Chinese one-party rule, say they are now organizing for the long haul and planning wider actions. As the Guardian reports:

One of the organisers, Alex Chow of Hong Kong’s Federation of Students, told a press conference more protesters were preparing to join. He said the demonstrations could also be widened, including strike action and sit-ins of government buildings, if authorities failed to meet the protest demands.

Wednesday is National Day in China, which marks the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China under Communist party rule. The organising group Occupy Central with Love and Peace has called for people to maintain the momentum of the protests into the public holiday.

And the Associated Press adds:

The protesters' chief demand is that they don't want Beijing to screen nominees for Hong Kong's leadership elections. They see the central government as reneging on a promise that the chief executive would eventually be chosen through "universal suffrage."

"The people on the streets are here because we've made the decision ourselves and we will only leave when we have achieved something," said Chloe Cheung, a 20-year-old student at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. "We are waiting for the government to respond to our demands for democracy and a say in what the elections will be like."

[...] Even larger crowds are expected to flood the streets Wednesday.

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