The Hong Kong government is using back channels to try to revive stalled talks with student leaders after more than two weeks of street protests.
It has sought the help of a middleman to broker the talks which were canceled Thursday last week, just hours before these were due to begin, after the government accused protest leaders of trying to use the process to incite more people to join their movement.
The middleman, a “highly respected” person, has been contacting leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Student (HKFS) about restarting the negotiations, Ming Pao Daily reported Thursday, citing Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam.
An announcement will be made as soon as a date is set, Tam was quoted as saying.
However, Tam said the students’ demands regarding political reform for the 2017 chief executive election is a “long shot” but they could discuss electoral arrangement for 2022.
The government will be as open as possible about such discussions and willing to involve a bigger cross section of society.
On Wednesday night, HKFS secretary general Alex Chow said he had yet to be contacted by the middleman.
He said the government’s hard line gives any discussions no leeway even if the students acknowledge that dialogue is necessary.
The identity of the middleman remains confidential but some leading academics are reported to have offered to mediate, including Joseph Sung, vice chancellor and president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Leaders of six major religious groups, including the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Taoist Association, also offered their services in a joint statement on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, top academics and professionals including Joseph Wong, former secretary for the Civil Service, and Edward Chan, former chairman of Hong Kong Bar Association called for the talks to proceed.
On Wednesday, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing urged the students to obey the law and go home.
He said it will be most upsetting if rule of law collapsed and called on the protesters “not to let today’s passion become tomorrow’s regret”.
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