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Hong Kong Protest Leaders to Turn Themselves In

FILE - Founders of the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement, from left, Chan Kin-man, Benny Tai and Chu Yiu-ming, attend a campaign to kick off the movement in Hong Kong, Aug. 31, 2014.

The three founders of Hong Kong's Occupy Central movement are planning to turn themselves over to police soon in what supporters described as an act of civil disobedience to show respect for the rule of law.

But Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-ming say they do not want to describe the action as a surrender and an end to the street protests that have lasted more than a month.

The South China Morning Post reported that the three planned to turn themselves in at the end of next week.

Reports quoted Tai as saying he was concerned about the movement weakening but blamed authorities for not addressing the key demands of protesters. They have been calling for fully democratic elections for the semiautonomous Chinese territory's chief executive in 2017. China ruled in August that all candidates must be approved by a committee that is stacked with pro-Beijing loyalists.

VOA has been unsuccessful in attempts to contact the three Occupy founders, but Joseph Cheung, initiator of the Alliance for True Democracy — a coalition battling for universal suffrage in Hong Kong — confirmed the three protesters' plan to VOA.

“Their thoughts are, firstly, to declare that this phase of the movement is coming to an end," Cheung said. "They have felt pressure from the public, and there should be a plan for exiting. Secondly, of course, is to show their respect for the law and to show their willingness to take responsibility for this movement.”

The Hong Kong Federation of Students and other pan-Democrats said they had reservations about the plan but were willing to be arrested for committing civil disobedience if police tried to clear their protest areas.

Alex Chow, secretary-general of the federation, said that if the government was not going to clear protest sites, the federation would wait for next year to surrender after Hong Kong's legislative council vetoed a controversial election reform package.

Earlier this week, a senior government official warned protesters they faced arrest if they did not clear the streets. But past attempts by police to break up the demonstrations have backfired, causing protests to grow.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.