HK Gov’t Offers Fresh Talks With Protesters

HK Gov’t Offers Fresh Talks With ProtestersHK Gov’t Offers Fresh Talks With Protesters

The Hong Kong government said on Saturday that it would hold talks with student protest leaders on Tuesday, the start of a formal dialogue that could ease tensions over nearly three weeks of demonstrations that the police have been unable to shut down.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief secretary and No. 2 official, announced the meeting on Saturday evening after thousands of protesters recaptured a large swath of the neighborhood of Mong Kok, which they have blockaded since late last month.

On Friday night, police officers struggled to control a crowd of thousands that had mushroomed after the police tried to shrink the protest area earlier in the day.

In his first public comment since the start of the Occupy protests, Hong Kong’s police commissioner, Andy Tsang, condemned “radical” protesters for charging the police line, and said they had broken the law by gathering Friday in Mong Kok.

“I have a message from the bottom of my heart: These illegal acts are hurting Hong Kong, hurting our society,” he told reporters on Saturday. He did not answer questions.

The police said 15 officers had been injured and 26 protesters had been arrested as of Saturday evening, with a tense standoff continuing.

The scheduling of the talks with the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the groups leading the protests, comes a week after the government pulled out of another planned dialogue. That move followed a news conference by the protesters in which they vowed to escalate pressure on the government by blockading government buildings and engaging in other acts of civil disobedience.

The protesters are calling for direct popular election of the city’s leader, the chief executive, who is now chosen by a committee of elites loyal to Beijing.