Hong Kong student groups were preparing to mobilise support for another major demonstration, a union leader said, as a Thursday deadline approached for the pro-Beijing government to respond to demands of protesters who have shaken the city with massive rallies.
Millions have marched this month to oppose a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to the Chinese mainland, but the huge protest movement has morphed into a larger rebuke of Hong Kong's administration.
Under-fire chief executive Carrie Lam has apologised and suspended the controversial bill, but that has failed to quell the opposition, with protesters demanding she step down and completely withdraw the legislation.
A network of students at universities and higher education institutions is preparing to mobilise based on a 5:00 pm (0900 GMT) Thursday deadline circulating online for several demands to be met, said So Tsun Fung, president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Students Union.
In addition to Lam's ouster and the extradition law's withdrawal, protesters have also demanded the release of those detained during sporadic clashes with police last week, and an investigation into allegations of police brutality.
So told AFP the student network would call for people to surround Hong Kong's central government offices at 7:00 am Friday (2300 GMT Thursday) if the Lam administration does not respond to demands.
- Human chain -
"The hope is to apply pressure before civil servants go to work if we have a certain amount of people," he added.
In a chat group seen by AFP on the messaging app Telegram, some users posted anonymous polls asking its more than 34,000 members how they wanted to protest Friday, with options including a peaceful sit-in, forming a human chain, or surrounding Lam's residence.
A Hong Kong government press representative asked AFP to direct queries about the demands to Lam's office, which could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Civil Human Rights Front, a group that helped facilitate the massive June 9 and June 16 rallies, said it would support any lawful and peaceful protest by student groups.
The ongoing protests have been largely "leaderless", with no one group or individual articulating demands or negotiating with authorities on the demonstrators' behalf.
The minority pro-democracy bloc in Hong Kong's legislature would also back the students and urges them to remain peaceful, opposition lawmaker Claudio Mo told AFP.
Opponents of the extradition bill that sparked the crisis have said they fear the proposal will ensnare the people of Hong Kong in mainland China's opaque and politicised justice system and also give Beijing a tool to target its critics based in the semi-autonomous territory.