By Mick Krever, CNN
While the street protests in Hong Kong may need to end, democracy advocates in Hong Kong have put themselves on the map and will continue their fight, Emily Lau, Chairwoman of the Hong Kong Democratic Party told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
The protesters “can't stay in the streets all the time. But we are not going to go away. Like a bad penny, I'll keep turning up. Many of us will keep turning up. So there is no way Beijing can just shut us out.”
Leaders of the Occupy Central movement turned themselves into the police Wednesday, urging protesters to end the months-long occupation of downtown Hong Kong; they insisted that their push for democratic autonomy from China would continue.
“This is the beginning of the end of this phase,” Lau said. “They are sending out a signal to Hong Kong, particularly to the protesters, that maybe it's time to call this part of the movement to a close.”
The protesters, however, do not speak with a single voice. Many of the younger, student advocates have insisted that their street protests and tent encampments will continue.
The 18-year-old student leader Joshua Wong is on a hunger strike, telling CNN it is “the only way to give pressure to the government to get a meeting with us.”
“I think the students should recognize,” Lau said, “that if we push ahead with this – particularly with any escalation, which may lead to violence – it would turn the community against us.”
“We need to get the people behind us, so we have to do it in a peaceful and non-violent way.”
Public opinion in Hong Kong has turned against the street protests; a poll last month indicated that just 13% of the population thought the occupations should go on.
Something important still have been achieved.
“Now there's so many people, particularly the young people – they have woken up to the pro-democracy movement. They are going to go forward with all of us, and that is a big achievement.”
“So we have to tell the young people and all the protesters to think very carefully what is the next stage, how do we regroup and to bring this movement forward. It is a very critical time for us.”
Earlier this year, Beijing announced that any candidates to lead Hong Kong would have to be pre-approved, which democracy advocates in Hong Kong see as a betrayal of the agreement signed when Britain turned over the territory to China in 1997.
The big test will come in 2017, which Hong Kong will hold elections for its chief executive, but local district elections next year may be an important way to show Beijing that the movement has popular support, Lau said.