World Bulletin/News Desk
Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying sought to defuse tensions with pro-democracy demonstrators on Thursday, saying he hoped the two sides could talk next week, but anger over police violence and ongoing protests suggested students were not about to give up.
Leung was speaking after nearly three weeks of protests that have paralysed parts of the city and grabbed global headlines amid scenes of violent clashes and tear gas rising between some of the world's most valuable office buildings.
The protesters are demanding free elections for their leader in 2017, but Beijing insists on screening candidates first and Leung reiterated that the government was unwilling to compromise.
"We don't find civil nomination in all Western democracies either," Leung said when a reporter challenged him on how the talks could progress when he was ruling out any changes to the electoral framework.
Hundreds of protesters, many of them students, maintained their presence on the streets of Hong Kong late into the night on Thursday.
Amid a sea of colourful tents erected on one of the main thoroughfares in the city's business district, they gathered to hear leaders making speeches through megaphones from a stage.
"The door for discussion will not close on our end, because we believe that the truth will always be on our side," student leader Lester Shum said, repeating the pro-democracy movement's position that it was open to negotiations to end the crisis.
But Chief Secretary Carrie Lam cancelled planned talks with student leaders earlier this month, saying it was impossible to have constructive dialogue, and it was hard to see how that could change given that the two sides remained poles apart.
Earlier in the day, Leung spoke as posters depicting him as a fanged wolf, a gang boss and Hitler stared down from the walls of government headquarters and the Legislative Council building in Admiralty, next to the Central business district, the epicentre of the protest movement against him.
In the early hours of Thursday, police used pepper spray to stop protesters from blocking a major road near Leung's office amid public anger over the police beating and kicking, captured on video, of a protester a day earlier.
At police headquarters in the entertainment district of Wan Chai, hundreds of people gathered outside to express outrage at the beating, with dozens queuing to lodge formal complaints.
Footage of the beating has gone viral and injected fresh momentum into the protest that had been flagging after nearly three weeks of demonstrations.
Tsang was taken to hospital and activists released photographs showing bruising on his face and body.
Several social workers printed a "wanted" poster with colour pictures of the police officers they said were responsible.
One of the protest groups, called Occupy Central with Love and Peace, expressed outrage at the beating, but also urged demonstrators to show understanding towards police officers who were doing their duty.
"They have simply been pushed into the position of our opponents by an unjust system and the hardliners in the government," it said in a statement.
"We hope all protesters not to forget what it was we set out to do; to resist a dictatorial government with love and peace."
At its peak, 100,000 protesters had been on the streets, presenting Beijing with one of its biggest political challenges since it crushed pro-democracy demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square in the Chinese capital in 1989.
Those numbers have dwindled significantly. But a hardcore group of demonstrators, mostly students, has kept up the pressure on Hong Kong authorities, who have called the protests illegal.
But Communist Party rulers, fearful that demands for democracy might spread to the mainland, say only candidates vetted by a nominating committee will be able to contest a full city-wide vote to choose the next chief executive in 2017.
Hong Kong's most prominent property tycoon, Li Ka-shing, on Wednesday urged the protesters to go home - in one of the world's most expensive cities where the vast majority cannot afford their own home.
Li, Asia's richest man and chairman of property developer Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd, had made no public comment on the protests but broke his silence to say if Hong Kong's rule of law broke down it would be the city's "greatest sorrow".
"I urge everyone not to be agitated," he said. "I urge everyone not to let today's passion become the regret for tomorrow. I earnestly request everyone to return to their families."Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Ekim 2014, 21:43