HONG KONG: Thousands of pro-democracy supporters took to Hong Kong’s streets Friday night after protest leaders implored them to dig in for the long haul following the collapse of talks with the government.
The mass rally attracting an estimated 15,000 drew the biggest crowd of the week, with numbers swelling as the night progressed and some demonstrators arriving with food, tents and bedding as the protests moved into their third week.
Crunch negotiations between protesters and Beijing-backed city officials were scheduled for Friday but fell apart Thursday after the government pulled out, blaming protesters for threatening to expand their campaign.
Demonstrators are calling for Beijing to grant the former British colony full democracy and for the city’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to resign.
Under plans unveiled by China in August, Hong Kong’s citizens will be able to vote for Leung’s successor in 2017, but only two-to-three vetted candidates will be allowed to stand — something detractors have dismissed as a “fake democracy”.
As Friday evening progressed the crowd of demonstrators grew from around 7,000 to 10,000 and then to more than an estimated 15,000 at the main protest site, a stretch of highway opposite the city government’s headquarters, an AFP reporter on the scene said.
During the rally pro-democracy leaders gave speeches, protesters chanted “Keep occupying” and sang the Cantonese version of a revolution anthem from hit musical Les Miserables “Do You Hear The People Sing?”.