Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are simmering down as student leaders met with a government official late Monday. The demonstrations, which seek universal suffrage to elect Hong Kong’s leader and have lashed out against the territory’s pro-Beijing executive, have been ongoing for nearly two weeks.
Ray Lau, Hong Kong’s undersecretary of constitutional and mainland affairs, is expected to meet with student leaders on Tuesday for a third time, according to Agence France-Presse.
“We hope there will be mutual respect shown during the meeting,” he said. The sit-down is being held to arrange a time and place for protest leaders to meet with Carrie Lam, deputy to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Protesters want Leung ousted from his position for being too close to Beijing and demand free elections to choose his successor.
Formal talks, to be held in public between protest leaders and government officials, are expected to begin by Sunday, Bloomberg reported. Several rounds of informal meetings were scheduled before then. Lau Kong-wah, a Hong Kong government representative, said the informal talks were “very, very good.”
One of the student leaders, Hong Kong Federation of Students Secretary-General Alex Chow, wasn’t as optimistic.
“If they have [a] proposal, they would have given them out already,” he told Bloomberg.
Martin Lee, founder of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party and another protest leader, said the restraint shown by protesters should be viewed favorably by the Chinese government.
“There is very little room for negotiations and discussion, but hopefully now that the whole world has seen how peaceful this demonstration has been, I hope the leaders in China will make some concessions,” he said.
While the intensity of the Hong Kong protests have eased, demonstration leaders said they’re not backing down in the wake of the meetings. The protests snarled traffic in Hong Kong and brought the territory’s financial district to a standstill while crowded neighborhoods like Mong Kok were filled with thousands of demonstrators.
But the protests are dwindling amid prospects of progress out of the meetings and because of “exhaustion” by demonstrators, the BBC reported.