Hong Kong police have warned protesters in the city of “serious consequences” if they carry out a threatened action to occupy government buildings.
According to the Associated Press, police spokesman Steve Hui told reporters that authorities wouldn't tolerate any illegal surrounding of government buildings and urged protesters to exercise restraint.
Student protesters had set a deadline of midnight local time (noon Thursday EDT) for Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to step down. If he refused, the students said they would occupy government buildings.
"We still can't get a normal, acceptable response," student leader Joshua Wong, 17, told CNN. "This is the final action for us."
The move by protesters follows calls from the city's 27 pro-democracy lawmakers for Leung's resignation or impeachment.
With the deadline hours away, protesters and police seem poised for confrontation. Jasper Tsang, the president of Hong Kong's legislative council, said Thursday that there was “not even a remote possibility” of Leung stepping down.
Regina Ip, a member of Hong Kong's core policymaking body, the Executive Council, and the leader of the pro-Beijing New People's Party, offered to act as an intermediary for talks between protesters and the city's government.
"As a political party [leader] as well as an exco member, I have more freedom to reflect opinions to the chief executive. I hope this open discussion could help to remove barriers for future talks," Ip said, according to the South China Morning Post.
Chinese state media have offered support for Leung and condemned the actions of protesters. The state-run People’s Daily newspaper warned that Thursday protests in Hong Kong could spiral into chaos. “These actions themselves are just a desecration of democracy and rule of law, ” the newspaper said. The Wall Street Journal said in a blog earlier this week that this amounts to the strongest language yet from Beijing on the issue.
But some of China's main newspapers continue to ignore the protests, BBC News reported. Meanwhile, other media outlets including the Beijing Times, Beijing News and Southern Metropolis make no mention of them.
Earlier, the Chinese government warned against “illegal acts.” Speaking in Washington on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the Hong Kong situation is a matter of China’s “internal affairs” and all foreign governments must respect “China's sovereignty.”