After two days of some of the worst violence seen between students and police in Hong Kong, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has said he is "ready for talks." Last week, the government pulled out of similar discussions.
Hong Kong's administrator, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (pictured below), announced on Thursday that he was ready to open talks with student leaders.
Just a week ago, his government pulled out of similar discussions with representatives of the pro-democracy movement that had been aimed at defusing tensions.
"Over the last few days, including this morning through third parties, we expressed a wish to the students that we would like to start a dialogue to discuss universal suffrage as soon as we can and hopefully within the following week," Leung told reporters.
Since the protests began two weeks ago, neither Beijing nor the Hong Kong authorities have made any concessions to the pro-democracy movement.
Leung's announcement on Thursday followed two days of increased violence between students and police in Hong Kong.
According to eyewitness and media reports, police used excessive force and beat up protesters in their attempts to clear a tunnel occupied by activists.
'Genuine' universal suffrage sought
Protests broke out in the semi-autonomous region almost three weeks ago after Beijing insisted that candidates standing for election as Hong Kong's next leader in 2017 would be vetted by a loyalist committee. Many Hong Kongers, however, are demanding "genuine" universal suffrage.
In a statement last Sunday, Leung said there was "almost zero chance" that Beijing would change its rules for the 2017 vote.
It remains unclear whether Hong Kong's student protests will be discussed at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), which takes place Thursday in the Italian city of Milan.
ksb/ipj (AP, AFP)