Oct 21, 2014 6:08 AM

HK leader: Room to discuss election committee

The Associated Press

HONG KONG (AP) Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader said Tuesday his government won't let the public nominate candidates to succeed him, as thousands of protesters demand, but he added that there's room to discuss how to form a key committee that would pick candidates.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told reporters that such changes could be covered in a second round of consultations over the next several months. Student protest leaders, however, are demanding that voters be allowed to skip the 1,200-member committee and directly choose candidates.

"How we should elect the 1,200 so that the nominating committee will be broadly representative, there's room for discussion there," Leung said. "There's room to make the nominating committee more democratic, and this is one of the things we very much want to talk to not just the students but the community at large about."

Soon after Leung spoke to The Associated Press and three other news agencies, top officials from his government began much-awaited, televised talks with student leaders.

Protesters have occupied main streets in three areas of the city since Sept. 28 to demand that the government abandon plans to use a pro-Beijing committee of elites to screen election candidates.

Protesters camped out at the main demonstration zone, outside the government's downtown headquarters in Hong Kong's Admiralty district, held out little hope that the talks would end the impasse, though they thought broadcasting them would help get their position out to the wider population.

"I think we all understand that we can't really get any concrete results," said protester Vee Chow, sitting outside her tent. "But at least an open dialogue can tell everybody why we are all here."

Leung said one obstacle to resolving the conflict has been what he said was a lack of organization by student leaders.

"There is no consensus on the part of the occupiers as to what will make them leave," Leung said.

He said the government could consider changes to the nomination process such as replacing corporate votes with individual ballots in the nominating committee, as suggested Monday by former Chief Secretary Anson Chan.

When asked about a possible timeline for clearing the demonstrators, Leung said that would be determined by the situation on the street.

"It is a question of us having a duty to prevent and stop clashes from happening," Leung said. "Patience within the community is running very thin."

Leung refused to answer in detail several questions about the possible role of central Chinese authorities in managing the crisis, only saying, "We don't have any instruction from Beijing about when and how we clear these streets."


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