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Hong Kong Student Leaders Disappointed by Reform Talks

  • VOA News

Hong Kong student protesters expressed disappointment about talks with government officials, saying authorities failed to address their main concerns about the structure of the 2017 elections.

Hong Kong Federation of Students leader Lester Shum said he is shocked the government is still asking the students to accept Beijing's outline for holding elections.

"I cannot believe that the government still insists on us to accept the deal first, still ask us to follow the National People's Congress Standing Committee's electoral framework," Shum said. "The government does not show any courage and sincerity to solve the political problem."

A protester who only wanted to be identified as Tam took issue with the government delegation in the talks Tuesday.

"[Chief Secretary for Administration] Carrie Lam said that there might be opportunities for change in the future, but she did not say when and did not provide an outline map for that. That's a meaningless reply," Tam said.

Call for end to protests

In her opening statement, Lam asked the student leaders to disperse the three-week-old protests, calling them divisive and an impediment to constitutional dialogue.

Alex Chow with the Hong Kong Federation of Students said the protests will not be disbanded unless the government reverses the decision to screen candidates.

Lam, Hong Kong's No. 2 official, said the territory is not an independent country and cannot decide its own electoral structure.

The talks were broadcast live, a key demand of the protesters, and shown on several giant screens at demonstration sites. Thousands of Hong Kong protesters listened raptly from the streets as the student leaders debated their call for full democracy for the Chinese-run city.

But, as had been widely expected, there was no breakthrough.

Student leaders had yet to decide whether or not to hold a second round.

Election reforms

Hong Kong's Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen (L-R), Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam attend a news conference after meeting with the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS).

Hong Kong's Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen (L-R), Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam attend a news conference after meeting with the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS).

In an interview before the talks, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying hinted there is room for discussing the makeup of the committee that would screen the candidates.

Protesters want Beijing to reverse an August decision to screen candidates for the territory's 2017 elections. They are also calling for Leung's resignation.

Beijing-friendly Leung has repeatedly insisted that he will not step down and that completely free elections are impossible for now.

"We all realize that the first meeting cannot solve all the problems. But it is a good start to have a dialogue. The government and three secretaries will listen to the opinion of the Hong Kong Federation of Students with the greatest sincerity," Leung said.

Earlier Tuesday, Leung outraged many protesters by suggesting that if universal suffrage were allowed, Hong Kong's poorer working class would gain too much power.

Inequality and rising living prices are a key concern among student protesters, who are also angered at what they see as eroding freedoms resulting from China's rising influence.

Protester Vee Chow said she does not expect Tuesday's negotiations to change much.

"I think we all understand that we can't really get any concrete results. But at least an open dialogue can tell everybody why we are all here," she said on Tuesday.

Some clashes

Hong Kong and Beijing authorities have declared the demonstrations to be illegal, but have largely allowed protesters to remain, despite several crackdowns in recent days.

The latest violence occurred Sunday, when Hong Kong police clashed with protesters in the crowded Mong Kok district, in an effort to clear demonstrator barricades on city streets.

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