Hong Kong leader says Beijing won't back down

Written by Associated Press | Hong Kong | Updated: Sep 30 2014, 22:09pm hrs
Hong Kong's leader today said that China won't back down from its decision to limit voting reforms in the Asian financial hub, dashing hopes that the standoff between demonstrators and authorities could be resolved quickly through negotiations.

As pro-democracy protests that have blocked Hong Kong's streets entered a fifth day, the unequivocal statement from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying does not come as a surprise.

Showing a willingness to talk would have made the Chinese leadership in Beijing appear weak, which could embolden dissidents and separatists on the mainland.

Leung, a Beijing appointee who is deeply mistrusted by the people, said that mainland communist leaders would not reverse their August decision requiring a pro-Beijing panel to screen candidates in the territory's first direct elections, scheduled for 2017.

"The central government will not rescind its decision," said Leung, adding that he wouldn't resign before then, rejecting one of the protesters' demands.

There was no immediate response from Occupy Central, the main civil disobedience movement, but the group said in a tweet that the pro-democracy movement had set a Wednesday deadline for Leung to meet their demands, which include genuine democracy and his resignation.

It said it would "announce new civil disobedience plans same day," without elaborating.

Despite Leung's urgings that they disperse and go home, thousands of people, many of them university and high school students doing homework, gathered on a six-lane highway next to the local government headquarters.

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."

Student leaders planned to make their own announcement today about further plans and demands.