After more than three weeks of protests, student leaders met for the first time with government officials, drawing thousands to the streets but failing to resolve the political standoff.
Despite police fears that the talks could provoke further street clashes, the city’s protest encampments remained peaceful overnight and were quiet Wednesday morning.
After the talks Tuesday night, Hong Kong’s government offered to submit an official report to Beijing that reflects the protesters’ views, but stuck to its line that it wouldn’t ask China’s leadership to revoke its plan to impose limits on how the city’s leader is elected.
The proposal came amid calls to better relay public views on political reform to central authorities in China, which has repeatedly criticized the demonstrations.
“Hong Kong’s young people have already made lots of sacrifices, including their time, and risking arrest and their futures,” said Lester Shum, deputy secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, during a two-hour dialogue that was broadcast live. “We only have a small wish—democracy….How can you ask us to leave the streets and accept the current election method?”
The five university student representatives, dressed in black T-shirts that said “Freedom Now,” sat opposite five senior officials dressed in suits in a conference room at a medical college.
The students held fast to their demand that the chief executive of Hong Kong should be publicly nominated in 2017.
Protesters have blamed the Hong Kong government’s failure to adequately convey society’s views to China for the lack of democratic progress in the city.
The government in July submitted an initial report to China’s legislature after a public consultation, a formality to kick-start the political reform process.
In August, the National People’s Congress ruled that candidates running for the top post in Hong Kong must be approved by a nominating committee largely loyal to Beijing.