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Hong Kong pro-democracy group admits likely defeat

HONG KONG -- Organizers of a pro-democracy group who vowed to take over Hong Kong's streets admitted Tuesday they were powerless to change China's plan to vet candidates for the city's next leader, but said their protest would go ahead.

The admission came after activist leaders promised a new “era of civil disobedience” in front of thousands of supporters at a Sunday rally after Beijing crushed hopes for full democracy.

“We have to admit the fact that up to this point it is quite unrealistic to think that our action will change the decision made by Beijing,” Occupy Central co-founder Chan Kin-Man told AFP.

“The first function about talking about Occupy Central is to create pressure for compromise and negotiation. Now I believe we have already reached the end point in terms of the democratic change in the system,” Chan said.

He also said the movement could end if the city's legislature vetoes the proposed electoral changes.

However Chan said direct action was still planned, mobilizing thousands of people to block major thoroughfares in the financial district of Central to protect the city's “core values” and “existing rights and liberties.”

But he acknowledged that supporters who are more “pragmatic” may back down.

“Ten thousand protesters was our target set in the past, we are still confident that thousands of people will join and it will last at least for days.”

A statement from Occupy late Tuesday appeared, however, to backtrack on comments that support might wane.

“It is not correct to say we have less support,” it read. “Although some pragmatic supporters may leave, new supporters are joining us because they are angry about the Chinese government's decision.”

China Warns UK

China on Tuesday accused London of interfering in its domestic affairs, over a British parliamentary inquiry into democratic reforms in Hong Kong.

The public rebuke followed reports Monday that Chinese authorities had written to the parliamentary foreign affairs select committee to demand the probe be dropped.

“Hong Kong has returned to the motherland,” said China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang.

“Issues concerning the political reform of Hong Kong fall totally within China's domestic affairs, which allow no interference from the outside.”

The deal that handed Hong Kong back to China guaranteed some freedoms and a semi-autonomous status, and the British foreign secretary reports to parliament on the territory every six months.

The chairman of the British Foreign Affairs Committee, which oversees the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told the BBC he wanted to avoid any misunderstanding.

“My job and the Foreign Affairs Select Committee's job is to look at whether Britain has complied with its undertakings, and if China has not complied with its obligations,” Richard Ottaway said.

“I think this is a right and proper procedure. I don't particularly want to irritate the Chinese. I want them to understand the procedure.

“It may well be that my committee will decide that actually the Chinese have behaved perfectly reasonably.”

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