Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-ming, the founders of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement, have turned themselves in to police over their role in pro-democracy demonstrations.
The trio said they wanted to take responsibility for protests deemed illegal by authorities.
However, after a brief meeting they left without being arrested or charged.
Protesters have been demonstrating for two months over Beijing’s restrictions on Hong Kong’s election process.
Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-ming walked into the Central Police Station to turn themselves in together with Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who has supported the protests.
The three men left less than an hour later, saying they were being released without charge.
Officers had told them that because they had not been arrested, the police could only collect information from them and would “invite them back to the police station at an appropriate time”.
Some supporters followed suit. Police said a total of 24 people surrendered and officers told them to immediately stop illegal occupation of public places.
As they arrived, the Occupy founders were met by a large gathering of supporters outside the police station, who shouted: “I want true democracy!” as they walked in.
Anti-Occupy groups also showed up, greeting the men with jeers and shouts of: “Arrest them!”
Earlier, Benny Tai told a radio show that he had no regrets, saying: “In hindsight, I would still do the same thing.”
Occupy Central led the street protests when they began in September, but has since receded as student groups have become more prominent.
The protesters want China to scrap its plan to screen candidates for the territory’s 2017 leadership election, and want the Hong Kong government to renegotiate the political arrangement with Beijing.
Announcing their plan to present themselves to police on December 2, the Occupy Central founders repeated their call for student activists to scale back their protests, amid sporadic clashes with police.
One protest camp in Mong Kok has been taken down by the authorities, but a few hundred protesters refuse to vacate the remaining two camps at Admiralty and Causeway Bay.
Alex Chow, head of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, told reporters that student leaders would not follow Occupy and turn themselves into police.
Meanwhile another student leader, Joshua Wong, is on a hunger strike along with two female members of his Scholarism group to demand talks on political reform with the Hong Kong authorities.
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