Hong Kong's chief executive urged pro-democracy protesters to stop their campaign "immediately" Tuesday after demonstrators gave the Chinese government a Wednesday deadline to meet their demands for political reforms.
Leung Chun-ying said that Beijing would not reverse its earlier decision to hand-pick eligible candidates to lead the former British colony, which only became part of China in 1997.
"I don’t believe that the continued use of illegal activities will compel the Chinese government to reverse the…ruling by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee," said Leung, who also rejected calls from the protesters to step down, saying "Any personnel change before the implementation of universal suffrage is achieved would only allow Hong Kong to continue to pick its leader under the Election Committee model."
Earlier Tuesday, the pro-democracy Occupy Central announced the October 1 deadline for reforms to be implemented, including Leung's resignation. The group added that it would "announce new civil disobedience plans same day."
Leung addressed the group directly in his media briefing Tuesday, saying "Occupy Central founders had said repeatedly that if the movement is getting out of control, they would call for it to stop. I'm now asking them to fulfil the promise they made to society, and stop this campaign immediately."
Wednesday is is a holiday for China's National Day, and even larger crowds are expected to flood the streets. The government said it was canceling a fireworks display planned to celebrate the National Day, which marks the 1949 founding of the People's Republic of China.
China's decision last month to allow a committee of mostly pro-Beijing tycoons to select the candidates is viewed by many residents as reneging on promises to allow greater democracy in the semi-autonomous territory, since Beijing had promised that the chief executive would eventually be chosen through "universal suffrage."
One day after police shocked the city by firing tear gas at the crowds, the protesters passed a peaceful night Monday singing as the blocked streets in several parts of Hong Kong. They also staged a brief "mobile light" vigil, waving their glowing cell phones as the protests stretched into their fourth day. Crowds chanted calls for Leung to resign, and sang anthems calling for freedom.
Police arrested a man who drove his Mercedes-Benz through a crowd of protesters occupying a street in the densely populated Kowloon neighborhood of Mong Kok. Local television footage showed people scrambling as the car sped through the crowd while honking just before 2 a.m. No one was injured.
;By Tuesday morning, the crowd, mostly students, continued to occupy a six-lane highway next to the local government headquarters. The encampment was also edging closer to the heart of the city's financial district.
Police said they used 87 rounds of tear gas Sunday in what they called a necessary but restrained response to protesters pushing through cordons and barricades. They said 41 people were injured, including 12 police officers.
"Police cordon lines were heavily charged by some violent protesters. So police had to use the minimum force in order to separate the distance at that moment between the protesters and also the police," said Cheung Tak-keung, the assistant police commissioner for operations.
The atmosphere was more festive Monday as constantly shifting crowds blocked major roads. People moved in and out of the sit-ins, some bringing in food and drink while others fetched their own. Some high school students, still in their school uniforms, sat on the pavement doing their homework.
"It's already the fourth day, so it's really tiring," said Ching-ching Tse, a 24-year-old student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who was on her second day of collecting trash in the protest area with her friends. "So we are forming some groups and hope we can do some shifts and take turns."
Officials announced that schools in some districts of Hong Kong would remain closed Tuesday because of safety concerns, while dozens of bus routes were canceled and some subway stops near protest areas were closed.
The protests have been dubbed the "Umbrella Revolution" by some, because the crowds have used umbrellas to not only block the sun, but also to stop the police from hitting them with pepper spray. Political slogans calling for freedom have also been written on the umbrellas.
Many younger Hong Kong residents raised in an era of plenty and with no experience of past political turmoil in mainland China have higher expectations. Under an agreement set in 1984, before most of them were born, Beijing promised to allow Hong Kong residents civil liberties -- unseen in the rest of China -- after it took control of the city.
China's communist leaders take a hard line against any threat to their monopoly on power, including clamping down on dissidents and Muslim Uighur separatists in the country's far west, but it cannot crack down too harshly on the semi-autonomous territory where a freewheeling media ensures global visibility.
Across the border, Chinese state media have provided scant coverage of the protests beyond noting that an illegal gathering spun out of control and was being curtailed by police.
The protests began a week ago with a class boycott by university and college students demanding reforms of the local legislature and a withdrawal of Beijing's requirement that election candidates be screened. Leaders of the broader Occupy Central civil disobedience movement joined the protesters early Sunday, saying they wanted to kick-start a long-threatened mass sit-in demanding Hong Kong's top leader be elected without Beijing's interference.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.