10/03/2014, 00.00
HONG KONG - CHINA
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Hong Kong protest on hold as talks between students and government set to start

After chief executive refuses to resign, protesters wait for meeting with Hong Kong chief secretary Carrie Lam. Decisions made in Beijing "cannot change," Catholic source says. However, meeting will "allow both sides to save face."

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - After five days of extreme tensions in the heart of Hong Kong's financial and political centre calm seems to have returned.

Protests by the Federation of Students, backed by the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement, are on hold pending talks between protest representatives and Carrie Lam, Chief Secretary for Administration of the Hong Kong Government.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced talks yesterday whilst rejecting calls for his resignation. He did so after ordinary Hongkongers took to the streets on Monday after the violent police crackdown against unarmed students.

A source told AsiaNews that the crackdown stirred the hearts of citizens, and "turned people against the government."

During the ongoing demonstrations, protesters called for a new agreement with mainland China on electoral reform in the Special Region. For them, Beijing's reform was "a farce" that "de facto denies democracy" to Hong Kong citizens.

Since the start of demonstrations, mainland China's position has not changed. At first, state media tried to ignore the events in Hong Kong, enforcing a blackout on the internet and not talking about the democratic movement in the media.

When the protest went viral, they chose to support Leung, stressing that no one "should interfere" in the country's internal affairs.

"The compromise opens the door to dialogue and removes the risk of a violent crackdown, and this in itself is a good result," a local Catholic source told AsiaNews.

"Calls for Leung's resignation will come to nothing. He cannot change decisions made in Beijing and he cannot quit."

"How will the next chief executive be elected? How will the vacuum created by the fall of the government be filled? The central government will never allow it. "

Of course, "the margin for negotiations offered to the demonstrators is really minimal," the source said.  "Yet it is an important gesture, shows some openness to dialogue, and in fact allows both sides to save face."

"The critical point is that this offer by the local government should have come earlier, not before the protests, but before Beijing presented its reforms."

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