Protesters on the streets of Hong Kong have warned they will blockade government buildings unless pro-Beijing leader Leung Chun-ying stands down. Meanwhile, China has warned the US not to interfere in its affairs.
Pro-democracy demonstrators have given Hong Kong leader Leung until midnight on Thursday to stand down or face escalated action - despite warnings from Beijing to stop their protest.
The Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the leading forces behind the protests, urged people to surround public buildings from Friday if their demands were not met.
The campaigners have brought tens of thousands onto the streets since last week in support of the so-called "Umbrella Revolution." The demonstrators - many bringing umbrellas to protect them from regular downpours - are calling for legislation to be reversed that would require Beijing to approve all candidates in Hong Kong's first direct elections in 2017.
Leung, who was appointed by the Chinese government to administer the territory, has so far refused to stand down.
Discord in Washington
There were conflicting messages from the US and China as the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Washington.
"Hong Kong affairs are China's internal affairs," Wang Yi told his opposite number John Kerry at a press conference. "All countries should respect China's sovereignty and this is also a basic principle of governing international relations," warned Wang, adding that no country would allow "illegal acts that violate public order."
Kerry made renewed calls for the eventual goal of universal suffrage for Hong Kong to be met - in accordance with the former British colony's Basic Law - and he urged police to show restraint. "We have high hopes that the Hong Kong authorities will exercise restraint and respect the protestors' right to express their views peacefully," Kerry said.
The Chinese government appeared to be losing patience with the "Occupy Central" protests on Wednesday. A state TV editorial urged Hong Kong residents to support the authorities in efforts to "deploy police enforcement decisively" and "restore the social order… as soon as possible."
Meanwhile, an editorial in the state-run People's daily warned of "unimaginable consequences" to what has become the biggest challenge to Beijing's authority since it violently crushed the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests.
Amnesty International Hong Kong said on Wednesday that a number of Chinese activists had been taken into custody for supporting the protests in the territory.
Social media has played a significant role in the demonstrations, with many protesters using the FireChat messaging app, which requires no Internet connection.
There were scenes of support for the pro-democracy movement in the US on Wednesday, with students gathering in New York's Times Square to show solidarity. In San Francisco's Chinatown, scores demonstrated with signs bearing such slogans as "you are not alone" and "united for democracy."
rc/av (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)