HK protesters agree to talks

By Agatha Yuen Source:Global Times Published: 2014-10-8 0:48:07

Number of demonstrators dwindles as city returns to order

A pro-democracy protester reads a newspaper at Hong Kong's Mong Kok district on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

The number of protesters on the streets of Hong Kong has dwindled significantly after government representatives met with protest leaders and agreed to formal talks before the end of the week.

The massive protest in Hong Kong, organized by the Occupy Central movement, entered its 11th day Wednesday, after paralyzing parts of the city center.

Three representatives from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government held a third meeting with leaders of pro-democracy group, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, on Tuesday evening.

Both parties have yet to talk about the solutions to or the details of the current political situation, but they agreed in the second round of preparatory talks Monday that they will hold a public meeting later this week. The government has also agreed with the three conditions laid out by the protest group that several rounds of dialogue will be held, that the student leaders must be treated as equals and that the government must implement the outcome of the negotiations.

Lester Shum, the deputy secretary-general for the student federation, said at a press conference after Monday's meeting that they are planning to talk with Hong Kong's Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor by Sunday. The exact date and location of the talks are to be confirmed. He also told reporters that both parties have agreed that the formal talks will be direct and mutually respectful.

Protesters removed the barricades that were blocking access to the government headquarters on Monday after receiving a warning from the government, allowing civil servants to return to work. Schools in Hong Kong's central district are also reopening. However, several streets, which house offices for international banks, luxury malls and the main stock exchange, remained barricaded.

Protesters demanded the resignation of the SAR's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and that Hong Kong residents are allowed to directly elect a new chief executive in 2017.

Zhang Dinghuai, deputy head of the Hong Kong and Macao Basic Law Research Center of Shenzhen University, said the SAR government is unlikely to compromise during the formal talks and grant direct elections in 2017. 

"To override the National People's Congress (NPC) decision on 2017 electoral reform is impossible. It is also impossible for the SAR government to promise anything outside the electoral framework. Both parties can only discuss details within the framework," Zhang said.

Whether the student federation will limit its discussions to within the electoral framework will become critical in the upcoming formal talks.

Zhang said the protest movement is unlikely to last even if the two parties fail to reach an agreement.

"The movement has already caused huge inconvenience to local people. It has seriously affected traffic, local retail businesses and the financial industry. Many countries have issued a travel warning for Hong Kong. The people will not continue to tolerate this. Even if the government is not going to take any legal action, Hong Kong residents will demand it," he said.

On Tuesday, around 1,500 Hong Kong residents held a demonstration outside the headquarters of Next Media Ltd, accusing its chairman Jimmy Lai Chee-ying of instigating and funding the Occupy Central movement, reported the website of the Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao newspaper on Tuesday.

Lai, who is well known for his outspoken opposition to the government, was reported to have held a secret meeting with Paul Wolfowitz, former US deputy secretary of defense, in late May.

An editorial from the Oriental Daily, a Hong Kong newspaper, stated that external forces are attempting to use Hong Kong as a means to destabilize the Chinese mainland.

"It may not seem to be a color revolution but it is indeed trying to turn into a color revolution," the editorial said.

It also said that the movement will not last long. "In fact, many young participants joined the movement with passion and ideals. But since many protesters also want to see a stable and prosperous city and they are not willing to become a political tool, the movement will not last long. It is time for the students to return home and the people to return to their original routine," it added.

Pro-democracy protesters have paralyzed Hong Kong's main commercial and financial districts for more than a week.

Thousands of protesters have been illegally occupying the streets in Mong Kok, Admiralty and Causeway Bay, causing schools to be closed and buses routines to be rescheduled.

The protest is triggered by the NPC's announcement of the Hong Kong 2017 electoral reform as activists claimed that the universal suffrage framework will exclude "democratic candidates."

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