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Dec 4, 2014 4:58 AM

Hong Kong student leaders mull protest retreat

The Associated Press

HONG KONG (AP) Hong Kong student leaders said Thursday they're considering retreating from protest sites on city streets after more than two months in the latest sign that momentum is fading in their movement for greater democracy.

Members of the Hong Kong Federation of Students said Thursday that they're mulling whether to stay or go, with spokeswoman Yvonne Leung telling a local radio station that the group hopes to come to a decision within the next week.

The protesters have few options left after rallying supporters in a failed bid earlier this week to surround government headquarters that resulted in a night of violent clashes with police armed with batons and pepper spray. Public support for the protesters has fallen as the government has stuck to its apparent strategy of waiting them out.

Prominent student leader Joshua Wong said on his social media accounts that his group will discuss and coordinate with the federation on the decision. Wong, 18, and four other members of his Scholarism group started a hunger strike this week to try to force the government to resume talks over the students' demands, which include dropping Beijing's requirement to screen candidates for inaugural 2017 elections.

The two groups have played key roles in organizing the protests.

On "withdrawing or not withdrawing, any tactics, any methods will be considered," Tommy Cheung, another federation member, told reporters. "The federation will discuss the next step in our plan. ... At the moment there's no clear-cut decision."

The talk of retreat comes after the founders of Occupy Central, which also played a role in the protests, called this week for the students to end the protests to avoid further violence. The three founders and about 60 supporters turned themselves into police Wednesday in a symbolic move to show they wanted to move on to a new phase of the movement, but police let them go.


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