Pro-democracy activists have strongly denied Hong Kong leader CY Leung’s claim that “external forces” are involved in protests in the territory.
Student activist Alex Chow said the leader’s comments were “irresponsible”, and said Mr Leung had not provided any evidence to support his claim.
Pro-democracy demonstrations have paralysed parts of Hong Kong for the past three weeks.
The protesters are calling for fully democratic elections in Hong Kong.
They are angered by the Chinese government’s decision to vet candidates for the leadership polls in 2017.
In an interview with local broadcaster ATV, Mr Leung said the protests were “not entirely a domestic movement, as external forces are involved” – although he declined to give details or name the countries he thought were involved.
Mr Chow, from the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said: “To make a statement that there are foreign powers infiltrating this movement right before the discussions, is evidence that CY [Leung] is hoping to crack down on the entire movement.”
One protester, Jeffrey Hui, told the BBC: “This is something which is purely by citizens, purely by those who live in Hong Kong, those who care about Hong Kong, who stand up and go against the regime.”
Mainland Chinese officials have frequently warned against “foreign interference” in Hong Kong, while Chinese state media have accused the West of “instigating” the protests.
Analysts have argued that China could be making allegations of interference to discourage foreign governments from supporting the protests.
Tens of thousands of people took part in demonstrations earlier this month demanding full democracy.
While protest numbers have dwindled in recent days, activists remain entrenched in the Admiralty and Causeway Bay areas of Hong Kong Island, and in Mong Kok, a residential and shopping district across the harbour.
Police and protesters have scuffled amid tense stand-offs in recent days, although no clashes were reported on Sunday night.
There have been some police operations to move barricades and tents from the protest sites, but police have not managed to clear the protest areas.
Mr Leung would not confirm whether the government would attempt to clear the demonstrations again, but said: “We need time to talk to the people, particularly young students. What I want is to see a peaceful and a meaningful end to this problem.”
Mr Leung added that the protests had “gone out of control even for the people who started it. They cannot end the movement, which is a major concern”.
The protesters, who are mostly students, accuse Mr Leung of failing to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party.
Student leaders and Hong Kong officials have agreed to hold negotiations on Tuesday. The talks will be broadcast live on television.