Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting came out fighting yesterday after he shocked many with his pessimistic assessment of the pro-democracy movement in an interview.
Tai said he was confident that as many as 10,000 people would join the upcoming mass sit-in in Central, a day after he suggested that public support for Occupy was waning.
Tai said the interview with Bloomberg, released on Tuesday, in which he also admitted Occupy had failed "up to this point", had only told half the story.
The movement had hoped the threat of civil disobedience would convince Beijing to allow genuine universal suffrage in Hong Kong for the 2017 chief executive election.
Tai said in the interview the tactic had failed, as Beijing on Sunday set down tough restrictions on the 2017 vote, insisting only candidates approved by a committee dominated by Beijing loyalists would be allowed.
That hard-line decision meant action was now needed rather than words, Tai said.
"We won't stop Occupy Central just because of [Beijing's] decision," he said. "Hong Kong people should be prepared that the fight is for the next five to 10 years."
Tai said a big turnout for the Occupy sit-in could heap pressure on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying before the government draws up its official plan for the election.
But Occupy was caught in another storm yesterday, when one of its 10 core supporters, journalist-turned-businessman Jeff Tsui Siu-wa, made a dramatic and high-profile U-turn to oppose Occupy Central in an interview.
Tsui, who was among the first batch of people to vow to join Occupy last year, told Chinese-language paper Sing Pao that he objected to "using any illegal means to fight for democracy".
He said he quit voluntarily and was not under any threat or pressure to change his stance.
Last month, Apple Daily reported that Tsui's mainland business partner was under pressure because of his stance on Occupy and had forced Tsui to step back from the movement.
It came after another Occupy core member, Tony Tsoi Tung-ho, abruptly closed his pro-democracy news website House News in July, citing poor revenue and political persecution.
Alex Chow Yong-kang, leader of Hong Kong Federation of Students, said the mainland's suppression of the Occupy movement would only make its supporters more determined.
Watch: Occupy Central leaders promise civil disobedience campaign in Hong Kong