Pro-democracy protests expanded in Hong Kong on Monday, a day after demonstrators upset over Beijing's decision to limit political reforms defied onslaughts of tear gas and appeals from Hong Kong's top leader to go home.
And with rumors swirling, Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying reassured the public that speculation that the Chinese army might intervene was untrue, AP reports.
"I hope the public will keep calm. Don't be misled by the rumors. Police will strive to maintain social order, including ensuring smooth traffic and ensuring the public safety,'' said the Beijing-backed Leung, who is deeply unpopular. He added, "When they carry out their duties, they will use their maximum discretion.''
At dawn Monday, police officers tried to negotiate with protesters camped out on a normally busy highway near government headquarters that was the scene of the tear gas-fueled clashes that erupted the evening before.
An officer with a bullhorn tried to get them to clear the way for the commuters that would soon be streaming into work. A protester, using the group's own speaker system, responded by saying that they wanted Leung and his cabinet to "do something good for Hong Kong. We want real democracy.''
Protesters also occupied streets in other parts of Hong Kong Island, including the upscale shopping area of Causeway Bay, the Wan Chai nightlife district as well as across the harbor in densely populated Mong Kok on the Kowloon peninsula. The city's transport department said roads in those areas were closed.
More than 200 bus routes have been canceled or diverted in a city dependent on public transport. Subway exits have also been closed or blocked near protest areas.
The mass protest, which has gathered support from high school students to seniors, is the strongest challenge yet to Beijing's decision to limit democratic reforms for the semi-autonomous city.
The scenes of billowing tear gas and riot police outfitted with long-barreled weapons, rare for this affluent Asian financial hub, are highlighting the authorities' inability to assuage public discontent over Beijing's rejection last month of open nominations for candidates under proposed guidelines for the first-ever elections for Hong Kong's leader, promised for 2017.
Authorities said some schools in areas near the main protest site would be closed, as Leung urged people to go home, obey the law and avoid causing trouble.
"We don't want Hong Kong to be messy,'' Leung said as he read a statement that was broadcast early Monday.
That came hours after police lobbed canisters of tear gas into the crowd on Sunday evening. The searing fumes sent demonstrators fleeing, though many came right back to continue their protest. The government said 26 people were taken to hospitals.
Fxxk the government (this is my word not from the news
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