HONG KONG - Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying urged protesters and students camping out on the city's thoroughfares on Monday to reflect on the inconveniences they have imposed on the public.
Leung, in a videotaped message posted on Monday evening, said that vehicle access to his office and the rest of the government headquarters complex was still blocked by a number of protesters. He himself, for instance, had to work from his official residence.
He called on protesters to withdraw from the streets.
"I hope the people assembling on the roads, especially the students and youth, will ponder. Shouldn't you consider the burdens put on the public by the Occupy Central campaign when you fight for ... a brighter future for Hong Kong through civil disobedience?"
According to the administration, top officials were still working from other locations because of safety concerns. Courier service for internal documents and office supplies remained suspended, off-site meetings were cancelled and disabled staffers were still unable to get to their workplaces.
The police reported at a press conference that at 8:45 am, there was a whopping 9-kilometer-long line of traffic backed up along the coastal highway from the piers at Central to the Shau Kei Wan area in the east.
Traffic blockages have been most acute on the Hong Kong Island, but commuters in Kowloon also suffered badly. Some were stuck in a 7-kilometer-long standstill as vehicles attempted to reach the harbour crossing. Others were stranded in a 6-kilometer traffic jam on the Mongkok-bound thoroughfare.
With 30 kilometers of heavy traffic lining up on trunk roads in the morning rush, the Transport Department concluded that traffic conditions on Monday were the worst since the protests broke out eight days ago. It warned that the situation could worsen as more businesses resume operations during the week.
By contrast, the presence of protesters behind barricades thinned out considerably in the morning. Outside the government offices at Admiralty, whose pedestrian access was reopened, the 10-lane thoroughfare was scattered with dozens of camping protesters and their makeshift shelters.
Though the numbers of protesters had dwindled, the area was not cleared on Monday.
A four-day environment symposium gathering 11 Nobel winners that was due to open on Wednesday has been scrapped "due to the sustained disruptions in the city", the organisers said Monday.
However, secondary schools closures in affected areas, which had been a particular headache for families, were lifted and the government said primary schools will reopen on Tuesday.
Transportation officials appealed to protesters to reopen one of the two trunk roads at Admiralty, which would greatly relieve the traffic bottleneck.
A high-level task force comprising officials of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau - appointed by the city's chief to reach out to the student protesters - met twice with members of the Hong Kong Federation of Students.
Leung, in his message, reaffirmed the government's sincerity about wanting to have a dialogue with students.
The Hong Kong government had stated earlier that a rational dialogue would be the only way for the special administrative region to resolve the controversy stemming from recent political reform proposals.
As of Monday, 37 people had been arrested in connection with breaches of the peace or violence around the protest zones. Twenty-seven police officers were injured in the course of their duties, some in breaking up recurring scuffles between the protesters and their opponents.