Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying attends a news conference at Government House in Hong Kong Oct. 16, 2014. Leung said on Thursday that he hopes the government can hold talks with students calling for democracy for the Chinese-controlled city as early as next week. Reuters/Tyrone Siu

There are “external forces” behind the Occupy Central movement, according to embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Lueng made the claim in a television interview on local TV on Sunday as the pro-democracy protests enter their fourth week. “There is obviously participation by people, organizations, from outside of Hong Kong, in politics in Hong Kong, over a long time,” he said. “And this is not the only time when they do it. And this is not an exception either.”

Scott Robinson, a spokesman for the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong, brushed off the accusations as a means of distracting Hong Kong residents from the issue of democracy, but stopped at calling out Leung directly. “What is happening in Hong Kong is about the people of Hong Kong, and any assertion otherwise is an attempt to distract from the issue at hand, which is the people of Hong Kong expressing their desire for universal suffrage and an election that provides a meaningful choice of candidates representative of the voters’ will,” he said.

Leung said protests leaders, which include student leaders, politicians and professors, no longer have control of the protests and “cannot end the movement,” if they wanted to. “It's gone out of control even for the people who started it, for people who planned it, for people who scripted it,” he said. “You now see them still writing articles about it or appearing in some neighborhoods that have been occupied, and talked to the people as recent as last night. But they cannot end the movement, which is a major concern.” Leung also said his government sought a “peaceful, meaningful end” to the protests.

Meanwhile, the situation in Mong Kok is “on the verge of a riot,” according to Hong Kong police. Protesters, police and anti-Occupy Hong Kongers have repeatedly clashed there in recent weeks. Protesters there have reinforced their barricades and armed themselves with goggles, armor-like foam guards and their trademark umbrellas used to block pepper spray.

Police spokesman Steven Hui Chun-tak said protesters were using children as “human shields” between themselves and police lines.