HONG KONG — Joshua Wong, the student leader who helped spark pro-democracy demonstrations rocking Hong Kong, has promised a long-term fight against Beijing despite a recent drop-off in protester numbers.
“Let’s bring our clothes, tents and mattresses here,” one of the movement’s leading voices told a crowd late on Tuesday at one of Hong Kong's main protest sites. "We shall gather here and work here.”
The 17-year-old also called on the international community to force Beijing to participate in upcoming negotiations in good faith. This sort of pressure would "give us more chance to get the result of universal suffrage," he said.
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Protest numbers, originally in the tens of thousands, have dwindled in the last few days. Meanwhile, the focus for activists has gone from direct action to talks with key officials in the Hong Kong administration.
Wong said that while he did not have an active role in Friday's negotiations with the government, he would mobilize the students before the negotiations started.
“[Hong Kong Chief Secretary] Carrie Lam will know that while facing student leaders inside, [she should not] forget the activists outside the government headquarters,” Wong told journalists after his speech.
Wong acknowledged that the odds were stacked against them.
"I don’t believe after Friday's meeting [China’s Communist Party] will say ‘Oh, we’ll give you everything you want'," Wong said. “We need to be persistent.”
Student groups needed to discuss further daily acts of civil disobedience, he said, adding that they had no immediate plans to extend the resistance campaign. Wong did call for more international support for the movement.
Wong’s proclamations come as protest numbers falter across the three protest zones in Hong Kong. A late-night announcement that the student leaders and the government had agreed on formal talks on Friday brought hope that a resolution could be near.
But Wednesday also brought pointed questions: what would be on the agenda for discussions, where will they be held and in what format would talks occur.
Protesters' core demands — full universal suffrage for Hong Kong and the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying — are not on the agenda, according to student leaders and Hong Kong officials.
- Reuters contributed to this report.