HONG KONG -- The deadline set by Hong Kong’s protest movement for the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying passed late Thursday night, shortly after Leung declared at a press conference that he would not be resigning. The crowd outside the government complex in Hong Kong’s central business district jeered after the announcement, although the scene still remained relatively calm.
At a press conference at 11:40 p.m., with the midnight deadline looming, Chief Executive Leung said that Chief Secretary Carrie Lam would meet with leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Students for a dialogue, though he did not give in to protesters’ demands to resign.
The area outside the government complex had turned into a hot spot of tension between police and protesters earlier on Thursday. But by late evening, most of the scene had turned into a sit-in in front of the metal barriers set up to separate the crowd from dozens of police officers inside the complex. Still, the crowd’s mood was overwhelmingly one of uncertainty. Protester Edith Chong, 42, said that word that there would be no resignation spread since the police began bringing in additional equipment to the scene. “We came out tonight because we believe that more people here will make it more safe,” she said.
But Chong wasn’t sure if the added police gear was a bluff on the part of Hong Kong’s government. “You never know -- maybe they just want to play a game with the crowd, make you nervous. But according to the government’s practice, if we just stay here overnight, they won’t do anything unless some people -- you never know who it is or which side -- will spark the fire and give them an excuse to clear the area.”
Ryan Li, 20, was also uncertain of what the police reaction would be that night. “They won’t use the tear gas now, but I think they will use it later,” he said.
Earlier Thursday evening, the crowd had shouted at police officers bringing what protesters suspected was riot gear into the government complex. An argument also broke out between demonstrators who wanted to block off the nearby highway and prevent cars from coming through, and those who wanted to leave the road clear for safety reasons. Later, some again tried to block the road, but other protesters joined hands along the side of the street to prevent people from disrupting traffic.
Although student demonstrators had set Thursday midnight as a deadline for Chief Executive Leung to resign, some members of the crowd said they would wait for Leung to return to work in the morning to question him face to face.