[HONG KONG] Hong Kong's student protest leaders said on Wednesday that they would "stay to the end" as police prepared to swoop on the city's main rally site after more than two months of mass pro-democracy demonstrations.
Setting up a final showdown with the authorities, pro-reform lawmakers said that they would join student protesters on Thursday morning when police clear the camp in central Hong Kong, which has been at the heart of the movement for fully free leadership elections.
The tent city, complete with supply stations and art installations, is entrenched along a kilometre of a multi-lane highway running through the semi-autonomous Chinese city's Admiralty district since September 28.
Thousands gathered on Wednesday night for what is likely to be the final mass rally at the site, chanting "We want true universal suffrage; we will fight to the end."
"It's the last night and I want to show our support and take some pictures as memories," said 28-year-old finance worker Jacqueline Au.
"For me the protest has been a good thing. It's a wake-up call for the government in China that it's not that easy to impose the Chinese system in Hong Kong. Tonight is a historic moment."
China's communist authorities say candidates in the 2017 leadership election will be vetted by a loyalist committee. Protesters say this will ensure the election of a pro-Beijing stooge.
Authorities have said they will take "resolute action" against those who resist the clearance, which they say is being carried out to open roads and restore public order.
Public support for the road blockages has waned as the weeks have worn on.
Earlier in the day student leaders urged protesters to remain peaceful, but said they were determined to stay put until the police move in.
"Let everyone get arrested to show we are willing to bear the responsibility of civil disobedience," said Joshua Wong, the teenage face of the movement, who ended a four-day hunger strike Saturday.
But while the occupation is in its final throes, new art around the Admiralty site - a creative hub during the protests - made clear that this is not the end of the pro-democracy movement.
"Sweeping away the barricades cannot sweep away public opinion. The body is down but the determination is not. We will be back," read one poster, showing a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film 'Terminator'.
Another "We will be back" poster was draped across the road, and the slogan was recreated in gold balloons near the main speakers' stage.
In trademark humour for the occupied site, an alien doll wearing goggles and a yellow cape was tied to a sign-post with a shield that read: "Whoever clears me out will be afflicted with stubborn disease until death." Bailiffs will start implementing injunction orders from 9:00 am (0100 GMT) Thursday to clear parts of the site before police dismantle the rest, authorities have said.
Pro-democracy lawmakers said they would join the students in a display of unity.
"We would like to show the international community that most Hong Kongers are willing to and will insist on the peaceful, rational and non-violent way in fighting for a democratic system for ourselves and the next generation... and pay the price," said the Democratic Party's Emily Lau.
Protesters spoke of their disappointment at the lack of political concessions from Hong Kong or Beijing, who branded the demonstrations illegal.
"To be honest, we failed this time. Having slept on the street for two months, we haven't achieved anything," said 28-year-old theatre worker Karen Ho. "But at least we saw how ugly and ridiculous our government can be." Others said they were still determined to prove their point.
"I will sit here and let them carry me away," said 23-year-old computer repair worker Lucas Wong. He added that he would bring a helmet and shield to defend himself.
There are fears that radical splinter groups will dig in for a final stand, following violent clashes outside government headquarters at the end of last month.