Hong Kong pro-democracy protests continued Wednesday on China's National Day, as massive crowds swarmed the streets of the Asian financial hub.
The protesters are calling for the resignation of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who refused to meet with them, The Associated Press reported. The demonstrators want to see the Chinese leadership agree to broader electoral reforms.
China's National Day, also marked in Hong Kong, traditionally celebrates the anniversary of the founding of communist China in 1949. CNN said that helicopters flew over the crowds as part of the ceremony carrying the Hong Kong and Chinese flags, with the latter noticeably bigger.
Protesters have filled major streets throughout the week, calling for democratic reforms ahead of Hong Kong's first direct elections in 2017 since the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997. There have been clashes with police, who have used pepper spray and tear gas on the people to try and disperse the crowds.
In a speech on Wednesday, Leung made no mention of the protest but told voters it will be better to agree to the Chinese government's plans for nominating candidates than to continue 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."
His speech was disrupted by pro-democracy lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, who shouted for the chief executive to step down, before being taken by security.
Local councilor Paul Zimmerman made his stance known by holding up a yellow umbrella, a symbol for nonviolent civil disobedience.
"I'm here today with the yellow umbrella because it stands against the shooting of tear gas at the children of Hong Kong. I think we have destroyed the values of Hong Kong earlier this weekend by shooting tear gas at children," Zimmerman said.
Reuters noted that police are wary of cracking down too hard on the protesters, which could shake the confidence of the market-driven Hong Kong, which has a separate legal system from the rest of China. A lack of response, however, could potentially embolden dissidents on the mainland.
"We want to be heard, we want to stand here peacefully, but we're not going to be aggressive," said one of the protesters Wednesday morning, as crowds tried to organize a human chain and create a buffer zone at Bauhinia Square between 100 police at the site and other demonstrators.
"Even though I may get arrested, I will stay until the last minute," added 16-year-old John Choi. "We are fighting for our future."
American officials noted that Secretary of State John Kerry will discuss the Hong Kong unrest with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during talks in Washington later in the day.