Hong Kong Students Delay Beijing Protest, Seek Meetings

Student pro-democracy protesters asked the city’s former leader, Tung Chee-hwa, to arrange a meeting with Chinese officials after shelving a plan to take their complaints direct to Beijing during a summit attended by world leaders including President Barack Obama.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students hopes the talks will help resolve an impasse over electoral reforms that has led to six weeks of protests. Students want China to reconsider its decision to vet candidates for the city’s 2017 leadership election, the federation said in an open letter on its Facebook page yesterday. The group said it hopes Tung will reply by tomorrow.

“The Hong Kong government not only lacks the ability to respond, but also lacks the will to tell China about the public anger,” the federation said. The details of the city’s electoral reforms should be decided by its people, it said.

Student leaders are seeking to give the protest movement fresh impetus as dissent splits the demonstrators and talks with the Hong Kong government have stalled without much progress. Tung, who led the city from 1997 to 2005 after its return to Chinese rule, has made two public appeals for the protesters to give up while urging them to resume talks with the government.

The federation wants to appeal to China directly because the Hong Kong government hasn’t represented the people’s interests, and big businesses are keen to maintain the privilege they have enjoyed since British colonial rule, the group said.

Little Success

Student leaders have previously appealed to politicians to help arrange meetings with China, with little success. Pro-democracy lawmakers, who have backed the protesters, have also rejected a student proposal for them to resign en masse to trigger by-elections that would be a de facto referendum on the election issue.

Huang Dizhong, an assistant to Tung, said yesterday he couldn’t immediately comment. Tung said on Oct. 24 the protests risk hurting the city’s economy should they continue. The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions yesterday urged an immediate end of the occupation of roads to aid the livelihood of the general public.

Chan Kin-man, a co-founder of Occupy Central with Love and Peace, one of the protest groups, said he would be happy to see the students “withdraw in the foreseeable future and continue the fight for democracy in another way.”

“I don’t think students should sacrifice for such an apathetic government,” Chan told the crowd at the protests yesterday night. “We respect their decision whether it’s to withdraw or to stay on and fight. What we can’t accept is for people to decline to identify the root of the problem and not to hold the government responsible.”

Public Nomination

The student protesters are seeking to have public nomination for Hong Kong’s first-ever leadership election, a demand that the government has said is against the city’s laws.

The protesters had floated plans to send representatives to Beijing during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum which takes place next week in the Chinese capital. Any such trip may happen after APEC, student leaders have since said.

Alex Chow, the secretary general of the student federation, said the movement may last until June next year, Ming Pao newspaper reported yesterday.

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