Hong Kong students, officials talk but don’t agree

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, October 21, 2014

HONG KONG — Hong Kong student leaders and government officials talked but agreed on little Tuesday as the city’s Beijing-backed leader reaffirmed his unwillingness to compromise on the key demand of activists camped in the streets now for a fourth week.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told reporters that the government won’t let the public nominate candidates to run in inaugural direct elections to succeed him in 2017, as demanded by thousands of protesters occupying main streets across the city. But he added that there’s room to discuss how to form the key 1,200-member nominating committee.

Leung said such changes could be covered in a second round of consultations over the next several months.

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“How we should elect the 1,200 so that the nominating committee will be broadly representative — there’s room for discussion there,” Leung said. “There’s room to make the nominating committee more democratic, and this is one of the things we very much want to talk to not just the students but the community at large about.”

Soon after Leung spoke to The Associated Press and three other news agencies, top officials from his government began much-awaited, televised talks with student leaders.

In opening remarks, student leader Alex Chow said that an August decision by China’s legislature ruling out so-called civil nomination and requiring the nominating committee has “emasculated” Hong Kong.

“We don’t want anointment,” said Chow, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of three groups leading the protests.

Chow and four other student leaders, wearing black T-shirts that said “Freedom Now!,” faced off against five senior government officials in dark suits across a U-shaped table.