HK authorities renew offer to talk with student group

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2014-10-17 0:38:01

UK, US comments increase interference concerns: experts

The Hong Kong government said it hopes to hold the previously stalled talks with the Federation of Students, one of the major organizers of the ongoing Occupy Central movement, as early as next week.

The government will hold talks with all parties, including representatives of the Federation of Students, to push ahead with the constitutional development of Hong Kong, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told reporters during a press conference Thursday afternoon, Xinhua reported.

Leung said that preconditions for the discussions, such as an amendment to the Basic Law and civil nomination for the election of the next chief executive would be impractical.

He said the objective of the dialogue is to seek consensus on how to implement "one man, one vote" for the 2017 chief executive election, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Student federation leaders welcomed Leung's offer, but criticized the preconditions, ABC reported. The dialogue, scheduled for October 10, was canceled by the government last Thursday when Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the basis for a constructive dialogue had been undermined.

Hong Kong's legislative councilor and Chinese mainland experts welcomed the dialogue, and also suggested government should hold more talks with other groups involved in the Occupy movement.

"The dialogue is quite necessary, but the student representatives should make their demands based on the preconditions set by the Hong Kong government," said Executive Council member and legislative councilor Lee Wai-king.

The Hong Kong government and police have showed high tolerance for the illegal movement over the past two weeks, she added.

Lee's view is echoed by Chinese mainland law expert Tian Feilong, currently a visiting scholar at the University of Hong Kong.

"The dialogue will put an end to the Occupy protest, and this is also what the Occupy students need to step down, as their movement accomplished little in around 20 days," Tian told the Global Times.

However, the Federation of Students cannot represent all the Occupy participants; the government needs to talk to more groups, such as Occupy Central with Love and Peace led by Benny Tai Yiu-ting, to eventually tame this civil disobedience movement, Tian said.

Just as the Hong Kong government has been working to solve this internal problem, the international community has stepped in.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain should stand up for the rights of people in Hong Kong when answering a question in parliament on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

On the same day, the US Department of State encouraged Hong Kong authorities to carry out a swift, transparent and complete investigation regarding an incident when Hong Kong police officers allegedly beat a protester, according to the official website of the US Department of State.

US Department of State spokesperson Jen Psaki appealed to the Hong Kong government to show restraint if protesters continue to express their views peacefully.

However, Hong Kong Police have not confirmed the alleged beating and the case has been under investigation since Wednesday, although the officers involved were reassigned.

Speaking on the allegation Thursday, Leung said he was against politicizing the incident, and said there are laws, policies and mechanisms to handle such cases.

The statement by the UK and US governments also received a backlash from legal experts both in Hong Kong and outside Hong Kong who described the statements as intervening in China's internal matters.

"What they [the UK and US governments] said was counterproductive, as it can only increase Chinese government concern over foreign countries interference in China's matters," Lee said.

Michael Tien Puk-sun, another Hong Kong legislative councilor, also believes that the two governments have crossed the line in commenting on Hong Kong issues.

The international community can express their concerns, but their concerns should be out of moral rather than political consideration, Tien said.

"Britain should not stand up for Hong Kong residents' rights as Hong Kong is Chinese territory, and the US does not have any legal grounds to support the illegal protesters," he said.

Some Western experts suggested the international community should exercise prudence when commenting on Hong Kong issues before the two governments made their statements.

Tim Summers, a senior consulting fellow on the Asia Program at Chatham House, wrote in an opinion piece on CNN that "Comments by some politicians and media commentators in recent weeks have demonstrated a worrying lack of understanding of the relevant historical agreements and Hong Kong's status as a Chinese territory."

Former Hong Kong governor David Wilson and seven other speakers linked to Hong Kong were scheduled to attend a 60-minute debate in London on recent developments in Hong Kong Thursday night, SCMP reported, but no details were available as of press time. 

Agencies contributed to this story

blog comments powered by Disqus