Protesters to HK boss: Quit or we occupy buildings

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Protesters to HK boss: Quit or we occupy buildings
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 22: Students attend the rally at Chinese University on September 22, 2014 in Hong Kong. Thousands of students from more than 20 tertiary institutions start a week-long boycott of classes in protest against Beijing's conservative framework for political reform in Hong Kong. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 22: Students post papers on the wall during the rally at Chinese University on September 22, 2014 in Hong Kong. Thousands of students from more than 20 tertiary institutions start a week-long boycott of classes in protest against Beijing's conservative framework for political reform in Hong Kong. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 22: Students attend the rally at Chinese University on September 22, 2014 in Hong Kong. Thousands of students from more than 20 tertiary institutions start a week-long boycott of classes in protest against Beijing's conservative framework for political reform in Hong Kong. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 22: Students attend the rally at Chinese University on September 22, 2014 in Hong Kong. Thousands of students from more than 20 tertiary institutions start a week-long boycott of classes in protest against Beijing's conservative framework for political reform in Hong Kong. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 22: Students attend the rally at Chinese University on September 22, 2014 in Hong Kong. Thousands of students from more than 20 tertiary institutions start a week-long boycott of classes in protest against Beijing's conservative framework for political reform in Hong Kong. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 22: A student carry a banner during the rally at Chinese University on September 22, 2014 in Hong Kong. Thousands of students from more than 20 tertiary institutions start a week-long boycott of classes in protest against Beijing's conservative framework for political reform in Hong Kong. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 22: Students attend the rally at Chinese University on September 22, 2014 in Hong Kong. Thousands of students from more than 20 tertiary institutions start a week-long boycott of classes in protest against Beijing's conservative framework for political reform in Hong Kong. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 22: Students attend the rally at Chinese University on September 22, 2014 in Hong Kong. Thousands of students from more than 20 tertiary institutions start a week-long boycott of classes in protest against Beijing's conservative framework for political reform in Hong Kong. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 22: Students attend the rally at Chinese University on September 22, 2014 in Hong Kong. Thousands of students from more than 20 tertiary institutions start a week-long boycott of classes in protest against Beijing's conservative framework for political reform in Hong Kong. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 22: Students attend the rally at Chinese University on September 22, 2014 in Hong Kong. Thousands of students from more than 20 tertiary institutions start a week-long boycott of classes in protest against Beijing's conservative framework for political reform in Hong Kong. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
Students gather during a strike at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on September 22, 2014. Thousands of Hong Kong students on September 22 began a week-long boycott of classes, kicking off what democracy activists say will be a wider campaign of civil disobedience against Beijing's refusal to grant the city full universal suffrage. AFP PHOTO / XAUME OLLEROS (Photo credit should read XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)
Students gather during a strike at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on September 22, 2014. Thousands of Hong Kong students on September 22 began a week-long boycott of classes, kicking off what democracy activists say will be a wider campaign of civil disobedience against Beijing's refusal to grant the city full universal suffrage. AFP PHOTO / XAUME OLLEROS (Photo credit should read XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)
Students gather during a strike at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on September 22, 2014. Thousands of Hong Kong students on September 22 began a week-long boycott of classes, kicking off what democracy activists say will be a wider campaign of civil disobedience against Beijing's refusal to grant the city full universal suffrage. AFP PHOTO / XAUME OLLEROS (Photo credit should read XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)
Students gather and sing freedom songs during a strike at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on September 22, 2014. Thousands of Hong Kong students on September 22 began a week-long boycott of classes, kicking off what democracy activists say will be a wider campaign of civil disobedience against Beijing's refusal to grant the city full universal suffrage. AFP PHOTO / XAUME OLLEROS (Photo credit should read XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)
A student reads a banner calling for strike at Chinese University of Hong Kong on September 22, 2014. Thousands of Hong Kong students on September 22 began a week-long boycott of classes, kicking off what democracy activists say will be a wider campaign of civil disobedience against Beijing's refusal to grant the city full universal suffrage. AFP PHOTO / XAUME OLLEROS (Photo credit should read XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 22: A man posts a paper on the wall during the rally at Chinese University on September 22, 2014 in Hong Kong. Thousands of students from more than 20 tertiary institutions start a week-long boycott of classes in protest against Beijing's conservative framework for political reform in Hong Kong. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
An activist calls for a strike at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on September 22, 2014. Thousands of Hong Kong students on September 22 began a week-long boycott of classes, kicking off what democracy activists say will be a wider campaign of civil disobedience against Beijing's refusal to grant the city full universal suffrage. AFP PHOTO / XAUME OLLEROS (Photo credit should read XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 19: Students of The University of Hong Kong gather at its Sun Yat-sen Place at campus on September 19, 2014 in Hong Kong. Students from over 20 tertiary institutions and universities will kick start the strike next Monday. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special committee, ruling out open nominations. Opposition to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 19: Students of The University of Hong Kong gather in front of a banner with Chinese characters that read ''Regain our future'' at its Sun Yat-sen Place at campus on September 19, 2014 in Hong Kong. Students from over 20 tertiary institutions and universities will kick start the strike next Monday. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special committee, ruling out open nominations. Opposition to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 19: Alex Chow, the leader of the HK student federation. speaks on stage during students of The University of Hong Kong gather at its Sun Yat-sen Place at campus on September 19, 2014 in Hong Kong. Students from over 20 tertiary institutions and universities will kick start the strike next Monday. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special committee, ruling out open nominations. Opposition to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 19: Students of The University of Hong Kong gather at its Sun Yat-sen Place at campus on September 19, 2014 in Hong Kong. Students from over 20 tertiary institutions and universities will kick start the strike next Monday. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special committee, ruling out open nominations. Opposition to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 19: Students of The University of Hong Kong gather in front of a banner with Chinese characters that read ''Strike to show our ideals'' at its Sun Yat-sen Place at campus on September 19, 2014 in Hong Kong. Students from over 20 tertiary institutions and universities will kick start the strike next Monday. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special committee, ruling out open nominations. Opposition to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 19: Students of The University of Hong Kong gather in front of a banner with Chinese characters that read''Strike to show our ideals'' at its Sun Yat-sen Place at campus on September 19, 2014 in Hong Kong. Students from over 20 tertiary institutions and universities will kick start the strike next Monday. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special committee, ruling out open nominations. Opposition to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 19: Students of The University of Hong Kong gather at its Sun Yat-sen Place at campus on September 19, 2014 in Hong Kong. Students from over 20 tertiary institutions and universities will kick start the strike next Monday. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special committee, ruling out open nominations. Opposition to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 07: Hong Kong Federation of Students Union, a Hong Kong student organisation, announces its planned strike by university students on September 7, 2014 in Hong Kong. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special committee, ruling out open nominations. Opposition to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 07: Hong Kong Federation of Students Union, a Hong Kong student organisation, announces its planned strike by university students on September 7, 2014 in Hong Kong. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special committee, ruling out open nominations. Opposition to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 07: Hong Kong Federation of Students Union, a Hong Kong student organisation, announces its planned strike by university students on September 7, 2014 in Hong Kong. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special committee, ruling out open nominations. Opposition to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 07: Hong Kong Federation of Students Union, a Hong Kong student organisation, announces its planned strike by university students on September 7, 2014 in Hong Kong. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special committee, ruling out open nominations. Opposition to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 07: Members of student group Scholarism, a Hong Kong student organisation, announces its planned strike by secondary students on September 7, 2014 in Hong Kong. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special committee, ruling out open nominations. Opposition to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - SEPTEMBER 07: Members of student group Scholarism, a Hong Kong student organisation, announces its planned strike by secondary students on September 7, 2014 in Hong Kong. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special committee, ruling out open nominations. Opposition to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
A replica of the 'Goddess of Democracy' statue is seen on the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, next to which students met to discuss a possible student strike in Hong Kong on September 4, 2014. A group of Hong Kong students on September 4 proposed plans to hold a week-long strike later in the month in response to Beijing's refusal to grant the semi-autonomous city full universal suffrage. AFP PHOTO / ALEX OGLE (Photo credit should read Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images)
Tommy Cheung, president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong student union, talks to the media ahead of a meeting to discuss a possible student strike in Hong Kong on September 4, 2014. A group of Hong Kong students on September 4 proposed plans to hold a week-long strike later in the month in response to Beijing's refusal to grant the semi-autonomous city full universal suffrage. AFP PHOTO / ALEX OGLE (Photo credit should read Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images)
Students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong meet to discuss a possible student strike in Hong Kong on September 4, 2014. A group of Hong Kong students on September 4 proposed plans to hold a week-long strike later in the month in response to Beijing's refusal to grant the semi-autonomous city full universal suffrage. AFP PHOTO / ALEX OGLE (Photo credit should read Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images)
A student of the Chinese University of Hong Kong types on his mobile phone at a meeting to discuss a possible student strike in Hong Kong on September 4, 2014. A group of Hong Kong students on September 4 proposed plans to hold a week-long strike later in the month in response to Beijing's refusal to grant the semi-autonomous city full universal suffrage. AFP PHOTO / ALEX OGLE (Photo credit should read Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images)
Students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong meet next to a replica of the 'Goddess of Democracy' statue (L) to discuss a possible student strike in Hong Kong on September 4, 2014. A group of Hong Kong students on September 4 proposed plans to hold a week-long strike later in the month in response to Beijing's refusal to grant the semi-autonomous city full universal suffrage. AFP PHOTO / ALEX OGLE (Photo credit should read Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images)
Students line up for a bus service at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, in Hong Kong on September 4, 2014. A group of Hong Kong students on September 4 proposed plans to hold a week-long strike later in the month in response to Beijing's refusal to grant the semi-autonomous city full universal suffrage. AFP PHOTO / ALEX OGLE (Photo credit should read Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images)
SHENZHEN, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 02: (CHINA OUT) Students attend the entrance ceremony of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen on September 2, 2014 in Shenzhen, Guangdong province of China. The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, which is the only university established by Hong Kong in Chinese mainland, held an entrance ceremony on Tuesday. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
HONG KONG - AUGUST 31: Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism members speak during the protest at Tamar Park outside of the Hong Kong Government Building on August 31, 2014 in Hong Kong, China. The National People's Congress Standing Committee announced the framework for the 2017 chief executive election. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - AUGUST 31: Hong Kong Federation of Students Chairperson Yong Kang Alex Chow crys as he gives a speech during the protest at Tamar Park outside of the Hong Kong Government Building on August 31, 2014 in Hong Kong, China. The National People's Congress Standing Committee announced the framework for the 2017 chief executive election. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)
Student activists (C) address pro-democracy rally attendees next to the Hong Kong government complex on August 31, 2014. China on August 31 announced rules giving it control over who can stand in Hong Kong's next leadership election, triggering tears and fury in the city where democracy activists vowed to stage a mass sit-in. AFP PHOTO / ALEX OGLE (Photo credit should read Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - AUGUST 31: Representatives from Occupy Central movement, Pan Democrats, and Hong Kong Federation of Students watch a TV broadcast in which Li Fei, Vice-general secretary of the National People's Congress Standing Committee announced the framework for the 2017 Hong Kong elections, at legislative council meeting room on August 31, 2014 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special commitee, ruling out open nominations. Opposers to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
HONG KONG - AUGUST 31: Representatives from Occupy Central movement, Pan Democrats, and Hong Kong Federation of Students watch a TV broadcast in which Li Fei, Vice-general secretary of the National People's Congress Standing Committee announced the framework for the 2017 Hong Kong elections, at legislative council meeting room on August 31, 2014 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong. The National People's Congress Standing Committee have endorsed a framework for political reform in Hong Kong ahead of the 2017 Chief Executive election, in which 3 candidates will be selected by a special commitee, ruling out open nominations. Opposers to the plans, including pro-democracy group Occupy Central, argue that the system will not meet international standards and deprives people of a genuine choice of candidates. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
Students gather for a rally at the Chinese University of Hong Kong campus in Hong Kong, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. Thousands of Hong Kong students boycotted classes Monday to protest Beijing’s decision to restrict electoral reforms in a weeklong strike marking the latest phase in the battle for democracy in the southern Chinese city.(AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
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By JOANNA CHIU and KELVIN CHAN

HONG KONG (AP) - Student leaders of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong warned Wednesday that if the territory's leader doesn't resign by the end of Thursday they will step up their actions, including occupying several important government buildings.

By raising the stakes in the standoff, the protest leaders are risking another round of confrontation with the police who are unlikely to allow government buildings to be stormed. It also puts pressure on the Chinese government, which has so far remained mostly silent and preferred to let Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying deal with the crisis.

The student leaders, who have played a key role in organizing the protests to press for greater electoral reforms, would welcome an opportunity to speak to a Chinese central government official, Lester Shum, vice secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said at a news conference.

"However, we ask them to come to the square and speak to the masses," Shum said. "This is a movement of Hong Kongers and not led by any specific group."

Shum demanded that Leung resign by the end of Thursday. He said there was "no room for dialogue" with Leung because he ordered police to fire tear gas at protesters over the weekend, after the street protests started Friday.

"Leung Chun-ying must step down. If he doesn't resign by tomorrow we will step up our actions, such as by occupying several important government buildings," he said, adding that demonstrators won't occupy "essential" government offices, such as hospitals and social welfare offices.

The protesters oppose Beijing's decision in August that candidates for the territory's top post in inaugural 2017 elections must be approved by a committee of mostly pro-Beijing local elites. The protesters don't want such restrictions and see China as reneging on a promise that the chief executive will be chosen through "universal suffrage."

The demonstrations pose the stiffest challenge to Beijing's authority since China took control of the former British colony in 1997.

Earlier Wednesday, a holiday, protesters kept behind police barricades heckled Leung as he attended a flag-raising ceremony on China's National Day, which marks the founding of communist China in 1949. Hundreds of them yelled at him to step down, then fell silent and turned their backs when the ceremony began.

China's government has condemned the student-led protests as illegal. President Xi Jinping, who has taken a hard line against any perceived threat to the Communist Party's hold on power, vowed in a National Day speech to "steadfastly safeguard" Hong Kong's prosperity and stability.

Agnes Chow, another student leader at the news conference with Shum, said she hoped that Beijing would look past the flag ceremony and see "the anger and frustration of the Hong Kong people and that we don't have our basic democratic rights."

Given the holiday, the protest numbers swelled Wednesday to tens of thousands, including many families with children, couples, students, retirees and foreigners who live in the city of 7 million. Many thronged a six-lane highway in front of the government headquarters in the Admiralty area, while others gathered in the downtown areas of Causeway Bay and Mong Kok.

"I came out today to support the movement. No student leaders or occupy leaders urged me to come out. I came out on my own," said Pierre Wong, a 36-year-old IT technician. "I hope there will be democratic reform, instead of using the current framework."

Throughout the protest zones, volunteers were manning supply stations under canopies to protect against the sun, handing out water, crackers, umbrellas, rain coats and plastic wrap - which was also used to protect against the pepper spray and tear gas used by police to try to disperse crowds over the weekend.

In his speech, Leung made no direct mention of the protesters, but he told voters it is better to agree to Beijing's plans for nominating candidates and to hold an election, than to stick with the current system of having an Election Commission choose the chief executive.

"It is definitely better to have universal suffrage than not," Leung said. "It is definitely better to have the chief executive elected by 5 million eligible voters than by 1,200 people. And it is definitely better to cast your vote at the polling station than to stay home and watch on television the 1,200 members of the Election Committee cast their votes."

The growing protests have attracted worldwide attention, with British Prime Minister David Cameron saying he planned to summon the Chinese ambassador to discuss the dispute, saying it is essential that Hong Kong's people have a genuine right to choose their top leader.

"It is not for us to involve ourselves in every dot and comma of what the Chinese set out," Cameron said in England. But he added: "I think it is a critical question. Real universal suffrage doesn't just mean the act of voting; it means a proper choice."

Chan Kin-man, one of the leaders of another protest movement called Occupy Central, said the protests would continue as long as the Hong Kong government failed to give a satisfactory response to their demands.

"I hope people will understand why the action keeps on escalating. It's because the government is getting more and more closed without listening to Hong Kong people," he told The Associated Press in an interview on the street. "If the government can give us a proper response in due course I think we can end the occupation immediately."

___

Associated Press writers Elaine Kurtenbach, Louise Watt and Wendy Tang in Hong Kong and Aritz Parra in Beijing contributed to this report.

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