- - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

HONG KONG | China’s communist regime showed signs Wednesday that it is losing patience with tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators blocking Hong Kong streets, as the protesters threatened to occupy government buildings in their bid to oust the city’s top leader and hold elections free of Beijing’s control.

In a speech marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Chinese President Xi Jinping told a Beijing audience that his government will “steadfastly safeguard” Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.

Additionally, The People’s Daily newspaper, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, warned of “unimaginable consequences” if the protests do not end — conjuring images of Beijing’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989’s Tiananmen Square massacre.

And an editorial solemnly read on state TV said all Hong Kong residents should support authorities in their efforts to “deploy police enforcement decisively” and “restore the social order in Hong Kong as soon as possible,” The Associated Press reported.

In Hong Kong, protesters jeered at and heckled the city’s top official, Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying, during a public ceremony commemorating China’s National Day.

Participants in the mostly student-led protest — the so-called “Umbrella Revolution” — vowed to begin occupying government buildings Thursday if Mr. Leung, Beijing’s hand-picked leader, does not resign by then.


SEE ALSO: Swelling Hong Kong student protests pose challenge to China


“I think more Hong Kongers are willing to join in the protest,” said Chapman Poon, 30, who joined the pro-democracy movement a few days after the protests started last week, when students boycotted schools and universities to demand free elections.

“My goal is to fight for universal suffrage and to protect the children,” he added. “I am proud to be a Hong Konger, but I am disappointed to see the response of the government.”

Demonstrators said they are committed to fighting for political change on Hong Kong’s streets for months, adding that it is important to keep national and international attention focused on their demands.

“Even though the government is still functioning, even though the Chinese government is not going to give in, Hong Kongers will not give up,” said Horace Chan, teacher and film critic. “We will be stronger, and stay peaceful in the pursuit of freedom.”

Still, some demonstrators expressed concern that some in Hong Kong are unaware of current developments.

“There are still many people in Hong Kong who do not know what is going on,” said Grace Lai, a woman in her late 80s who has been protesting for six days and considers the demonstrations fundamental to achieve “genuine” universal suffrage.

“It is not until we occupied the civil square that people started reading about us in the news,” she said. “That surprises me a lot. We have been talking about occupying the center for two years. Why do so many people still know nothing about it?”

Protests began last week, with students boycotting schools and universities to demand free elections in 2017, which had been promised by China when it took over the former British colony in 1997. Beijing granted Hong Kong certain civil liberties via a miniconstitution and elections for its top post.

But in proposed guidelines for the vote published in late August, China’s leadership granted the “one man, one vote” rule, but rejected an open nomination process for candidates for the city’s leadership post of chief executive.

China wants to limit the number of candidates and make sure those selected are vetted by a committee the way it currently is done — by pro-Beijing elites — essentially leaving the top post under the control of the mainland Communist Party.

Analysts say that protesters’ demands for Mr. Leung’s resignation are important, but more needs to be done in order to ensure a free election in 2017.

“If the demonstrations go on and the pressure is up there might be some change from the Chinese perspective,” said Nadine Godehardt, Asia analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. “But it does not mean that we have free and democratic elections in 2017. Beijing won’t take back its decision.”

Luigi Serenelli in Berlin contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire-service reports.

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