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Hong Kong's Leader Sets Low Expectations For Protest Talks

Hong Kong's chief executive CY Leung has called for talks with the pro-democracy protesters but he's taken all of their central demands off the table.
Posted at 11:19 PM, Oct 16, 2014

Hong Kong's chief executive CY Leung is not a popular figure with the region's protesters, having routinely sided with Beijing against the pro-democracy demonstrations occupying Hong Kong's streets. Now, Leung is hoping to bridge that rift with renewed talks which could start next week. 

But he's already warned protesters the government won't concede to any of their central demands.

CY LEUNG: "Politics is the art of the possible. And we have to draw a line between possibilities and what is impossible."

That means no revoking China's August decision that Hong Kong's political leaders must be vetted by Beijing, which sparked the protests in the first place. And there's certainly little chance Leung himself will step down — another of the key demands.

Instead, Hong Kong's leader hopes the government and protesters can find some sort of agreement within Beijing's guidelines. But if neither side is willing to budge, can the talks do any good?

Not according to one Hong Kong law professor, who thinks Leung is deliberately ignoring the heart of the movement. He told The Washington Post"All the protests would be for nothing, pretty much, if they can't discuss the very thing they are protesting about."

It's also worth noting the government called off a previous round of talks between the two sides last week, when protesters threatened escalation if their demands weren't met.

And the crowd's opinion of the government has only worsened since then. A Hong Kong TV station captured plainclothes policemen beating up a protester Wednesday night, which outraged the public and lead to renewed clashes with police.

But a Quartz writer says there might be a sliver of hope for the negotiations: Leung did hint the government might make some concessions within the framework of the Beijing decision.

"Leung did float one topic that could potentially entice protesters: changing the make-up of the mostly Beijing-appointed nominating committee. ... The possibility that the committee could be reconfigured ... might be enough to tempt some of the protest leaders to make the most of their considerable political leverage—and cut a deal."

Despite talk of negotiations, the battle for Hong Kong's streets continues unabated — police conducted a pre-dawn raid Friday to tear down barricades erected by the protesters. (Video via Al Jazeera)

This video includes images from Getty Images.