HONG KONG (AP) – Three founders of a civil disobedience campaign that helped spark Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests surrendered to police Wednesday, saying they want to take responsibility for their actions and that time has come to end the increasingly violent street demonstrations.
Professors Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Chan Kin-man and the Rev. Chu Yiu-ming haven’t been charged and left the police station later Wednesday after being warned by authorities that protests that have blocked streets in the Asian financial center for more than two months are illegal.
Police said in a statement that those who surrendered for the offense of taking part in an unauthorized assembly “were explicitly told … that illegal occupation of public places was an unlawful act and they should stop such act immediately.” Police said they will conduct follow-up investigations.
“The concept is to end the civil disobedience, we need to take the responsibility,” said Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen, who accompanied the three democracy leaders.
However, the surrender was likely to have little influence on student protesters, who are continuing to occupy two protest sites after a violent night of clashes with police earlier this week as they tried to surround city government headquarters.
“Now the situation (in the protest site) is very dangerous, so I hope protesters can end the occupation movement as soon as possible,” said Tai, a law professor at the Hong Kong University.
Police and local media said that dozens of supporters also turned themselves in. They were met by a crowd of jeering opponents calling for them to be jailed. One group was chanting slogans, “You deserved it!”
Tai said police took down their details and then gave them a form with a number of offenses listed and asked them to indicate which ones they should be arrested for. He said he advised supporters to choose participating in an unauthorized assembly.
The trio founded Occupy Central with Love and Peace, which aimed to shut down streets in the financial hub to press for free elections in the semiautonomous Chinese city. They want China’s government to scrap its requirement that candidates in inaugural 2017 elections for Hong Kong’s leader be approved by a panel chosen by Beijing.
The civic movement’s pro-democracy campaign was overtaken by student protesters, who make up the bulk of the activists and who kick started their own protest by occupying the streets outside the government complex. In response, the Occupy Central founders scrapped their original plan and announced they were joining the students on Sept. 28.