Talks between the Hong Kong government and student pro-democracy demonstrators are scheduled to take place on Tuesday. The planned discussions could reduce tensions after days of violent protests.
The Hong Kong government has announced plans to hold talks with student protesters on Tuesday, beginning a dialogue that could reduce tensions after three nights of violent clashes between police and student pro-democracy demonstrators.
"I am pleased to say that good progress has been made in the preparation for the dialogue between representatives of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and the Constitutional Development Task Force," Hong Kong's chief secretary for administration Carrie Lam said Saturday.
"Right now we are planning that [the talks] will take place on the afternoon of Tuesday, October 21," Lam said. The discussions are expected to last two hours and will be broadcast live.
The planned discussions are part of a dramatic reversal that began when Hong Kong city leader Leung Chun-ying announced a return to talks with the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) on Thursday. The Hong Kong government had abruptly cut off negotiations with the group a week earlier.
After weeks of relatively peaceful protests, there have been incidents of violence between police and demonstrators
It is unlikely, however, that the government will accede to the protesters' main demands. Demonstrators are calling for Leung's resignation and for free leadership elections to be held in the city in 2017. Currently, Beijing is requiring that candidates for Hong Kong leadership positions be screened by a committee likely to be loyal to China's communist government.
Violence between students and police has paralyzed parts of the city over the weekend. Thousands of protesters recaptured a large part of the Mong Kok neighborhood, which they had barricaded since September. Early on Sunday, some twenty people were injured after police used batons to try and disperse crowds of demonstrators in the Mongkok district.
Activist Lester Shum of the Hong Kong Federation of Students said the students would not move from the streets in advance of the talks.
"If the government tries to clear the sites, the citizens will respond with action," he said.
The former British colony of Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" framework that ensures rights not guaranteed in mainland China, such as freedom of speech and freedom to protest.
The pro-democracy demonstrations, called Occupy Central, have carried on for the last three weeks and been largely peaceful, but have caused major disruptions in the city. The recent violence followed the surfacing of a video which showed plainclothes police officers beating a handcuffed protestor as he lay on the ground.
At their peak earlier this month, the protests drew tens of thousands of people, though the number of demonstrators has shrunk dramatically since then. The Occupy Central protests have been deemed one of the greatest challenges to the Beijing government since the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
bw/jm (AFP, dpa, AP)