No end in sight for Hong Kong protests after talks

Updated on Oct 22, 2014 11:09 AM IST
Hong Kong student leaders on Wednesday said they may not take part in further talks with the government after accusing city authorities of failing to make any meaningful offers to end weeks of mass rallies.
AFP | By, Hong Kong

Hong Kong student leaders on Wednesday said they may not take part in further talks with the government after accusing city authorities of failing to make any meaningful offers to end weeks of mass rallies.

The comments are a blow to the city's Beijing-backed leaders who had expressed hopes for fresh rounds of talks after meeting face-to-face with students on Tuesday night for the first time.

The negotiations are widely seen as the only way to end nearly a month of protests calling for full democracy in the southern Chinese city without a police crackdown or further violence.

But the first formal talks on Tuesday night made little headway with students calling the government "vague" in its commitment to finding a genuine compromise.

"About whether there will be talks in the future this is something that isn't decided," Hong Kong Federation of Students secretary general Alex Chow told reporters Wednesday morning.

"The government has to come up with some way to solve this problem, but what they are offering does not have any practical content," Chow said, adding protesters will not leave the streets any time soon.

Protesters plan to march from their main camp to the residence of Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying at 1.30pm (0530 GMT).

Both sides are at loggerheads over how the city's next leader should be chosen. Protesters want to nominate and vote for candidates in 2017.

But Beijing ruled in August that only those vetted by a loyalist committee would be allowed to stand -- something protesters dismiss as "fake democracy".

During talks, government negotiators insisted Beijing would never agree to civil nomination.

But they made a series conciliatory offers including a promise to brief mainland officials on recent events and suggesting both sides could set up a "platform" to discuss further political reform beyond 2017.

Student leaders remain unimpressed, saying the government has offered nothing concrete.

They called on officials to give a clearer indication of what their proposals actually entail.

"The government should, as soon as possible by the end of this week, say what the report (to Beijing) would include and detail how the new platform can really solve the problems we have now," Joshua Wong, leader of student movement Scholarism told reporters.

Observers hope the talks, which were abruptly cancelled earlier this month and then resurrected after recent outbreaks of violence between protesters and police, will help find some sort of face-saving compromise for both sides.

If talks are abandoned, many fear a return to violent scuffles seen late last week that saw dozens injured after protesters battled with police as they tried to clear barricades.

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