The Occupy Central movement could hurt Hong Kong's economy severely, tear the community apart and undermine the rule of law if the street protests continue, the city's first chief executive after its return to China has warned. Tung Chee-hwa, now a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, met the media for the first time since the democracy protests broke out 27 days ago. Tung, who is familiar with Beijing's thinking, said it would not use military force to break up the protests now occupying three locations in the heart of the city, as it retained confidence in the abilities of local police. He also voiced backing for Leung Chun-ying, saying the embattled chief executive had done nothing wrong. But the 77-year-old, adopting the tone of a worried grandfather, urged the protesters, mostly students, to leave the streets. The city should implement democracy gradually, he said. "In civilised societies, conflicts are resolved through dialogue, not in the streets," he said. "Students should not use the occupation as a bargaining chip with the government." The administration's commitment to universal suffrage was genuine, he said, but the idea of allowing the public to nominate chief executive candidates - a key demand of the protesters - went against the Basic Law. The former shipping tycoon warned that the protests' negative impact would be "beyond imagination" and that the public would bear the consequences. Hotel bookings and total credit-card spending had dropped 20 to 30 per cent since the protests started on September 28, Tung said. "The fall is staggering. Even more worrying is that it was not a gradual drop but a sudden plunge," he said. Hotels Association chairman Victor Chan Kok-wai said bookings for next month were only half of those recorded a year ago. But data from the Travel Industry Council seemed to paint a different picture. Between October 1 and 22, the number of mainland tour groups visiting the city rose 90 per cent year-on-year. The heads of several luxury brands, including Fendi, Burberry and Longchamp, have all dismissed the suggestion that the protests could damage Hong Kong's position as the region's primary retail destination. Tung said: "The rule of law is the cornerstone of Hong Kong's success. We can't violate the rule of law while pursing democracy." Law Society president Stephen Hung Wan-shun said it was "definitely worrying" if the protesters continued to defy court orders to end their blockades. Tung spoke ahead of a vote by protesters planned for tomorrow and Monday on what details the government should include in a report to Beijing detailing public attitudes on the 2017 election. The topics up for vote are whether the report should insist that the National People's Congress Standing Committee retract its restrictive electoral framework and whether the dialogue platform should guarantee public nomination in 2017. The vote will take place at three protest sites - Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay - between 7am and 11pm. Meanwhile, tensions between protesters and their opponents continue, with scuffles becoming a daily occurrence in Mong Kok.