The end of a two-day holiday on Friday reduced the numbers of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying made an apparent concession by offering talks, even as Beijing restated its resolute opposition to the protests and a completely free vote in Hong Kong.
“For a few consecutive days, some people have been making trouble in Hong Kong, stirring up illegal assemblies in the name of seeking ‘real universal suffrage,” China’s official People’s Daily said in a front-page commentary on Friday. “Such acts have outrightly violated the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s law, as well as the principle of the rule of law, and they are doomed to fail.”
At a Thursday news conference held just minutes before the midnight deadline set by protesters, Leung refused to bow to their ultimatum to resign and repeated police warnings of serious consequences should they try to block or occupy government buildings.
However, he said Chief Secretary Carrie Lam would meet students to discuss political reforms, and even though he gave no timeframe, the decision seemed to defuse the situation slightly.
“I hope both sides will be satisfied,” she said. “Students had wanted a public meeting but I hope that we can have some flexibility to discuss details.”
The Hong Kong Federation of Students said in a statement early Friday that they planned to join the talks with the government, focused specifically on political reforms. They reiterated that Leung step down, saying he “had lost his integrity.”
One of the leaders of the broader Occupy Central democracy group, which started a long-threatened plan to paralyze the city’s downtown core by joining the student demonstration, also welcomed the talks, but insisted that Leung quit.