Hong Kong protests: Beijing-backed leader Leung Chun-ying offers a third try at talks after video of demonstrator being beaten by police

The seven officers allegedly involved have been suspended

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The Independent Online

Hong Kong’s leader has offered to re-open talks with the leaders of protests who have brought some of the city’s most important districts to a standstill in an attempt to win greater democracy in the Chinese-ruled region.

The move came as the city’s police force tried to deal with the fall-out from the release of a video appearing to show a group of officers repeatedly beating a handcuffed and unarmed protester as he lay on the ground.

Leung Chun-ying, the territory’s Beijing-backed chief executive, said talks were planned and could take place this weekend, but reiterated his stance that there was little if any room for concessions.

He said: “As long as students or other sectors in Hong Kong are prepared to focus on this issue, yes we are ready, we are prepared to start the dialogue,” adding that middlemen had been in touch with student protest leaders.

It signals the third attempt to get the leaders of both sides in the same room. The first was called off by protesters after violence from a counter-protest earlier this month, and the second by the government after it accused students of trying to use the meeting to rally more demonstrators to their occupation.

At the main occupation in Hong Kong’s principal political and financial hub, around 2,000 citizens were blocking the roads, many in tents. There were more skirmishes with police in the early hours, as some tried to re-occupy roads which police had already cleared.

 

There, the protest’s figureheads welcomed the talks, but voiced scepticism. Lester Shum, deputy secretary general of the Federation of Students, spoke to the crowd. In an angry address, he said that they were “not afraid of dialogue.” But Alex Chow, the group’s leader, said: “If [Mr Leung] is offering to talk but at the same time ordering police to clear the scene violently, the people know how sincere he is.”

Another speaker was Ken Tsang, the man whose alleged assault by police has added new fuel to the civic anger. The social worker, who was still clearly in some pain, asked crowds not to direct their anger at all policemen.

He said: “It was a few police officers who did not treat me well. I still believe the whole police force is not like that.

Police confirmed that the seven officers allegedly involved in the beating, which left the 39-year-old requiring hospital treatment, had been suspended.

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Police block roads to stop protesters as scuffles break out between the two sides (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

The protests, now in their third week, are against an electoral framework handed down by China for choosing Hong Kong’s next chief executive in 2017. Under the plan, Beijing will effectively screen out candidates likely to cause it problems.

Anger was further stoked after the police used teargas, batons and pepper spray against what were initially peaceful protests.

Few, even among protesters, expect any major concessions from the government, given that the election system has been decreed by the Communist Party. But neither do the dissatisfied citizens on the streets look prepared to back down.

“Politics is the art of the possible,” said Mr Leung, adding that any discussions must take place within the confines of the Chinese government’s decision and the Basic Law - the mini-constitution under which Hong Kong is ruled by China but maintains basic freedoms.

This does leave some room for concessions over the composition of the 1,200-strong election committee which will approve candidates, an area which Mr Leung specifically mentioned today.

Asked about how long the protests could last, he said: “Going forward, we cannot allow the occupying of streets to have a negative impact on Hong Kong society. Police will use appropriate methods to deal with this problem.”

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