Code: 269541 A

ILNA: Hong Kong’s leader is willing to let pro - democracy demonstrations blocking large areas of the city go on for weeks if necessary, a source close to him said, while defiant protesters vowed they would not budge.

The city’s streets were calm early on Thursday while police largely kept their distance from the thousands of mostly young people keeping up protests, now nearly a week old, in several areas of the global financial hub.

The protesters want Hong Kong’s leader, Leung Chun - ying, to step down by the end of Thursday and have demanded China introduce full democracy so the city can freely choose its own leader. Leung, appointed by Beijing, has refused to stand down, leaving the two sides far apart in a dispute over how much political control China should have over to Hong Kong.

The popular " Occupy Central " movement presents one of the biggest political challenges for Beijing since it violently crushed pro - democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in ۱۹۸۹.

Leung, Hong Kong’s chief executive, is prepared to allow the protests to subside and will only intervene if there is looting or violence, said a government source with ties to Leung.

" Unless there’s some chaotic situation, we won’t send in riot police… We hope this doesn’t happen, " the source said. " We have to deal with it peacefully, even if it lasts weeks or months. " Leung could not be reached for comment.

Riot police used tear gas, pepper spray and baton charges last weekend to quell unrest, the worst in Hong Kong since China resumed its rule of the former British colony in ۱۹۹۷.

The protests have calmed considerably since then, and the numbers on the streets have fallen sharply from the tens of thousands seen at the weekend, although an air of tension remains and the demonstrations appear far from over.

However, a crowd of about ۱۰۰ protesters had blocked the main road leading to Leung’s office in the Central business district, some chanting, " Leung Chun - ying, Step Down! "

U. S. President Barack Obama told visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who earlier met Secretary of State John Kerry, that Washington was watching the protests closely and urged a peaceful solution.
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Student protesters shout slogans outside the Golden …
Student protesters shout slogans outside the Golden Bauhinia Square, venue of the official flag - rais …

" The United States has consistently supported the open system that is essential to Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, universal suffrage, and the aspiration of the Hong Kong people, " the White House said in a statement about the meeting, also attended by national security adviser Susan Rice.

Universal suffrage is an eventual goal under the " one country, two systems " formula by which China rules Hong Kong. Under that formula, China accords Hong Kong some autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China.

However, protesters calling for free elections reacted angrily when Beijing decreed on Aug. ۳۱ that it would vet candidates wishing to run in Hong Kong’s ۲۰۱۷ election.

Wang said before an earlier meeting with Kerry that countries should not meddle in China’s internal affairs.

" The Chinese government has very formally and clearly stated its position. Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs. All countries should respect China’s sovereignty, " Wang said.

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