Hong Kong pro-democracy group admits likely defeat

Hong Kong pro-democracy group admits likely defeat
Founder of the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement, academic Benny Tai, stands in front of a backdrop which read "disobedience" during a campaign to kick off the movement in front of the financial Central district in Hong Kong August 31, 2014.

HONG KONG - Organisers of a pro-democracy group who vowed to take over Hong Kong's streets admitted Tuesday they were powerless to change China's plan to vet candidates for the city's next leader, but said their protest would go ahead.

The admission came after activist leaders promised a new "era of civil disobedience" in front of thousands of supporters at a Sunday rally after Beijing crushed hopes for full democracy.

"We have to admit the fact that up to this point it is quite unrealistic to think that our action will change the decision made by Beijing," Occupy Central co-founder Chan Kin-Man told AFP.

"The first function about talking about Occupy Central is to create pressure for compromise and negotiation. Now I believe we have already reached the end point in terms of the democratic change in the system," Chan said.

He also said the movement could end if the city's legislature vetoes the proposed electoral changes.

However Chan said direct action is still planned, mobilising thousands of people to block major thoroughfares in the financial district of Central to protect the city's "core values" and "existing rights and liberties".

But he acknowledged that supporters who are more "pragmatic" may back down.

"Ten thousand protesters was our target set in the past, we are still confident that thousands of people will join and it will last at least for days."

Angry demonstrations

Analysts said the movement may be changing tactics to dig in for a long-haul battle against Beijing.

"It is definitely a backing down but it is a strategic backing down," Surya Deva, a professor at City University of Hong Kong's School of Law told AFP.

"They know they can't really get the desired change by a short, intensive burst of civil disobedience. They're getting ready perhaps for a long term campaign -- and they need to build a base," he added.

Hong Kong police have arrested 22 people during a series of protests targeting a senior visiting Chinese official, authorities said Tuesday.

In the kind of scenes that would be unthinkable on the mainland, Li Fei, a senior member of China's rubber-stamp parliament, has been dogged by angry demonstrations throughout his visit to the former British colony -- including lawmakers heckling him during a speech on Monday.

Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 under an agreement which allows civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including free speech and the right to protest.

Li is visiting the semi-autonomous Chinese city to explain Beijing's controversial decision to control who can stand in the city's next leadership election in 2017.

Protesters have kept a vigil outside his hotel, with renewed scuffles breaking out late Monday.

"During the protest, the participants forcibly pushed the mills barriers, charged the police cordon line and dashed onto the carriageway," police said in a statement Tuesday.

Officers made 19 arrests outside the luxury Grand Hyatt Hotel in the Wan Chai district late Monday. Eighteen were arrested for "unlawful assembly" and one for obstructing a police officer.

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