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Hong Kong Talks Yield Frustration, No Progress

by VOA News October 22, 2014

A two-hour meeting in Hong Kong Tuesday between political reform advocates and government officials ended without progress, leaving student protesters questioning whether they will continue the talks.

The televised discussion was a platform for protest organizers to share why they have staged more than three weeks of demonstrations in the city's streets, advocating for more political autonomy from Beijing.

Officials countered that the students' demands are not legally feasible.

Hong Kong Federation of Students leader Lester Shum expressed surprise earlier Tuesday that the government was still asking them to accept Beijing's outline for holding elections in 2017.

'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. The government does not show any courage and sincerity to solve the political problem,' said Shum.

Tuesday's meeting was broadcast live, a key demand of the protesters. It was shown at demonstration sites in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

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

'Carrie Lam (Chief Secretary for Administration) 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,' said Tam.

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

Lam, Hong Kong's number two official, said the territory is not an independent country and cannot decide its own electoral structure.

But 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.

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.

Hong Kong and Beijing authorities have declared the demonstrations 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 from city streets.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Cantonese service.

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