Hong Kong talks fail to offer way forward
Much anticipated talks between pro-democracy students and government fails to explore way to resolve crisis

The long-awaited talks between Hong Kong’s student protesters and the government took place Tuesday evening with little sign of progress in resolving the stand-off.

Comments from Chief Secretary Carrie Lam and, in the run-up to the talks, Chief Exective Leung Chun-ying appeared to leave the door ajar for possible concessions to the students, who are demanding free elections to select the territory's top politician in 2017.

Lam said the current election framework was not the final blueprint and Leung, who did not take part in the talks but spoke to reporters beforehand, said the panel for selecting the candidates for the chief executive post could be "more democratic.”

However, student leader Alex Chow described the concessions as "hollow and illusory.”

The two-hour talks, set around a conference table with Lam and four suited officials facing fresh-faced students in black T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan Freedom Now, were shown live by the RTHK state-funded broadcaster.

In Admiralty district, where the largest protest site has been for more than three weeks, demonstrators watched proceedings on large screens, cheering their leaders and jeering Lam when she spoke.

Lam, the second highest-ranking official in the former British colony, said Beijing and the Hong Kong authorities had heard protesters' concerns about political reform.

The government would consider submitting a report to China's communist leadership about the public reaction to the framework set out by the National People's Congress Standing Committee for Hong Kong in August, she added.

The committee established plans for a 1,200-member nominating committee that would put forward two or three candidates for the 2017 election. The protesters expect the committee would be packed with party loyalists and offer little in the way of true democracy.

They are refusing to leave the streets until they secure free elections.

Speaking at the meeting, Chow said: "We hope the Hong Kong government doesn't become an obstacle on the democratic road for Hong Kong people. But that it will help us dismantle these road blocks and to lead Hong Kong people to bring about true democratic reform.”

Lam stressed that open "civil nominations” were not possible and that students had been "clearly heard” in Hong Kong and Beijing but "no matter how high the ideals, they must be strived for through legal, appropriate and rational means.”

Addressing officials in his closing comments, protest leader Lester Shum asked: "Will you show leadership and be brave enough to take forward the democratic process or will you go down in history as the ones that deprived Hong Kong of democracy?”

Commenting on the debate, Lawmaker Ronny Tong, from the pro-democracy Civic Party, said he was disappointed.

"What struck me was that both sides treated the talks as a debate,” he told RTHK. "Each side was trying to convince the other side of their argument - there were no out-of-the-box solutions.”

Tong suggested that democratic lawmakers were unlikely to pass Beijing's proposal for the chief executive poll in its current form.

"In order to give pro-democracy lawmakers an incentive to approve Beijing's election framework, there must be a more positive, concrete response by the government in relation to political reform,” he said.

The talks came after Hong Kong’s High Court Monday ordered the protesters to leave the sites in Admiralty and Mong Kok.

Last Modified: 2014-10-22 09:08:49
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