Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Talks loom in bid to end Hong Kong democracy standoff

A pro-democracy protester on the Hong Kong frontline yesterday. Picture: AFP.
A pro-democracy protester on the Hong Kong frontline yesterday. Picture: AFP. Source: AFP
NEGOTIATIONS to end Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement could start in the next few days, after student leaders and the government agreed to an early agenda aimed at removing pro-democracy campaigners from the streets.
The breakthrough was made after the government initially ­appeared hesitant to meet the students outside its official offices and commit to multiple rounds of talks instead of a single session.
Smaller protests continued yesterday at Occupy Central’s three main sites — Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok.
Crowd sizes have tended to ­increase at night when pro-democracy supporters return from work and school. Major transport routes remain blocked in Hong Kong’s downtown areas.
Verbal arguments between protesters and their opponents have become increasingly common, especially at Mong Kok, but the students are retorting by singing Happy Birthday to their detractors in Cantonese to defuse the situation.
A Hong Kong real estate agent yesterday published on Facebook the supposed home address of student leader Joshua Wong and urged his friends and associates to “Occupy” the Wong’s family home. The address was not correct and the man faced criticism on social media for publishing the private details of another family.
Hong Kong Federation of Students deputy leader Lester Shum said discussions between students and government officials had confirmed talks would happen this week.
The students have asked the government to approach the ­negotiations “honestly” and commit to several rounds of talks.
“We agreed that the meeting should start this week,” Mr Shum said.
“We want it to be a substantive dialogue, not just a casual chat or a consultative session.”
The Hong Kong Legislative Council was due to meet today but has been forced to postpone the session because access to the building remains blocked by protesters.
The government’s tolerance in allowing the protesters to stay on the streets, especially in ­Admiralty, has surprised some observers after the chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, promised to use force to shut down the ­Occupy campaign.
In a second televised address, Mr Leung finally admitted the ­violent attacks on students at Mong Kok last week was un­acceptable. “We are highly concerned about and strongly condemn these acts,” he said.
“Many of those gathering in that area are young people and students who have passion and love for Hong Kong. However, there are also some radical and ­violent people.
“The police will resolutely enforce the law against those who resort to violence, no matter what their stance is towards Occupy Central.”