Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hong Kong Leaders Can Be 'Heroes' or 'Villains,' Say Student Protesters

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Hong Kong Leaders Can Be 'Heroes' or 'Villains,' Say Student Protesters

Article excerpt

After nearly four weeks of mass pro-democracy protests that have captured world attention, the Hong Kong government Tuesday held the first face-to-face talks with student leaders of the "Umbrella Movement" - as the demonstrations are known.

A nearly two-hour meeting between Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's second-highest office holder, and four student representatives was streamed live in the evening, with a simultaneous translation into English. The event transfixed the city, and was projected on large screens erected at main protest areas on thoroughfares where crowds mostly cheered students and jeered Ms. Lam, whom they characterized as representing a future of "fake" democracy.

Student leader Alex Chow, sitting across from Lam, said city officials "can now decide whether to be democratic heroes or historical villains.... I believe every Hong Kong citizen is waiting to see."

Lam sat with three colleagues and said, "The students' voices and demands have been clearly heard by the special administrative region government, Hong Kong society, and the central government."

Neither Lam nor Chow ruled out further talks.

The talks are unlikely to have any immediate political effect but are seen by many analysts as notable for two reasons:

- First, that they happened at all, given the intractability of China's position on protesters' demands for full and unfettered elections in Hong Kong in 2017, and for the resignation of the city's Beijing-selected leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

- Second, that the Hong Kong government said it would officially inform Beijing of the views expressed in the city, including those of the students, since the Occupy Central street actions began. Hong Kong officials have come under increased criticism for appearing only to represent China's views to Hong Kong's people - but not representing the citizens of Hong Kong to the government in Beijing.

The British turned over its former colony to China in 1997 to be governed under a formula known as "one country-two systems" that allows Hong Kong a "high degree of autonomy" - though what that means is under terrific dispute. …

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