Talks with HK protesters could start next week

Updated: 2014-10-17 02:57

By TIMOTHY CHUI in Hong Kong(China Daily)

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Talks with student protest leaders may be started by the Hong Kong government as early as next week to discuss political reform in the city. University heads may help mediate the discussions.

The initiative comes after an arrangement to hold talks on Oct 10 was called off by the government the day before. The administration said then that the students had shifted their demands and had called for more people to take to the streets.

On Thursday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said at a news conference that he and the students will explore ways to work together within the legal framework of the Basic Law.

Protesters have taken to the streets to protest the method adopted to elect the city’s next leader in 2017.

Leung reiterated that 2017 is not the only year in which it is planned to “tweak” the city’s political system, adding that the issue will also be addressed in 2022.

He said that ongoing and illegal roadblocks cannot continue and police will take action at an appropriate time, but he stressed that clearing the protests will not be linked to progress made in the talks with student demonstrators.

Leung said the city cannot introduce changes that are not allowed under the Basic Law.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said protesters’ demands that the National People’s Congress Standing Committee withdraw its framework for the 2017 chief executive election are neither realistic nor appropriate.

Tam asked for students to take a wider view of constitutional development, appealing for them not to adopt a “zero-sum attitude” to reforms.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung stepped into a growing conflict between protesters and the police, calling for both sides to abide by the law.

“Police and protesters should not do anything that goes beyond the law,” Yuen said, referring to allegations of excessive force used by police when arresting protesters.

Seven officers in the police anti-triad unit accused of using excessive force on a protester were suspended from duty on Thursday and a criminal investigation was launched into the alleged beating, which was caught on camera.

The alleged victim is to be charged with assaulting a police officer, obstructing public officers and unlawful assembly.

Yuen said there are established channels for lodging complaints of misconduct by police officers, adding that complaints can also be processed by the judiciary if necessary.

He said the government has been sincere in seeking dialogue with protest leaders.