Tags: HongKong | China | politics | democracy

Hong Kong Govt to Open Talks With Democracy Protesters

Saturday, 18 Oct 2014 10:13 AM

Hong Kong's embattled government said it will open talks with student demonstrators Tuesday, after three nights of violent clashes between police and protesters who have paralyzed parts of the city with mass pro-democracy rallies.

The city's leader Leung Chun-ying made a dramatic U-turn Thursday by announcing a return to talks with the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the groups leading the protests, after abruptly pulling out of discussions a week earlier.

"Right now we are planning that it will take place on the afternoon of Tuesday, October 21," Leung's deputy Carrie Lam told reporters on Saturday.

Lam said the talks would be focused on constitutional reform, with both sides allowed to bring five members to the meeting that will last around two hours and will be broadcast live.

But hopes of any breakthrough are slim, with the government unlikely to cede to protesters' core demands -- Leung's resignation and free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city in 2017.

Beijing insists that candidates for the vote must be vetted by a committee expected to be loyal to China -- and Leung has warned that the country's communist authorities have no intention of backing down.

"I'm not sure anything will come out of it because the government does not seem to listen to public opinions," 15-year-old student protester Crystal Yip told AFP.

The demonstrators have held sit-ins at three key intersections since September 28, causing major disruption in an Asian financial hub usually known for its stability.

 

Friday saw a third night of violent clashes between police and protesters, with officers using batons and pepper spray to fight back surging crowds in the high-density Mongkok shopping district.

The fighting broke out as demonstrators battled to retake a protest camp that police had mostly cleared at dawn, tearing down tents and barricades in a bid to restore traffic to the busy junction.

Police said 26 people had been arrested and 15 officers injured in the clashes -- including after being jabbed by the umbrellas that have come to symbolize Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, as protesters use them as shields against pepper spray.

Police chief Andy Tsang told reporters his force had been tolerant since the rallies began in the hope that protesters would "calm down".

"Unfortunately these protesters chose to carry on with their unlawful acts, including acts which are even more radical and more violent," Tsang said.

Police used tear gas against protesters on September 28, in a move that grabbed worldwide attention and led tens of thousands of Hong Kongers to spill onto the streets in support of the pro-democracy movement.

But the demonstrations have remained largely peaceful for the last three weeks. The recent spike in violence came after shocking video footage emerged of plainclothes police officers beating a handcuffed protester as he lay on the floor.

Many residents have become increasingly frustrated over the disruption caused by the protests, with road blockages causing heavy traffic jams in the city of seven million, and local companies complaining of a downturn in business.

The crowds of protesters have shrunk dramatically from their peak of tens of thousands earlier in the month.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" deal that guarantees freedoms not seen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and the right to protest.

But fears have been growing that these liberties are being eroded, while anger has also soared over perceived political interference from Beijing and increasing inequality in the freewheeling financial hub.

The mass rallies come as one of the biggest challenges to Beijing's authority since the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests of 1989.

 

© AFP 2017

 
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Hong Kong's embattled government said it will open talks with student demonstrators Tuesday, after three nights of violent clashes between police and protesters who have paralyzed parts of the city with mass pro-democracy rallies. The city's leader Leung Chun-ying made a...
HongKong, China, politics, democracy
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2014-13-18
Saturday, 18 Oct 2014 10:13 AM
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