Hong Kong government agrees to meet with student protesters

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Update, 10/03/2014, 10:00 AM ET: Occupy Central and the Hong Kong Federation of Students say they will consider pulling out of talks with the government if the government does not take action against attacks on pro-democracy protesters. Anti-Occupy Central protesters reportedly clashed with pro-democracy protesters Thursday and Friday after nearly a week of peaceful demonstrations.


Young pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong appear to be gaining some traction.

Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung has reportedly asked a top official to meet with demonstrators.


The announcement comes just ahead of a deadline protesters set for him to step down. Protesters had threatened to occupy government buildings if he failed to take action. While Leung has agreed to the talks, he has said he will not resign his post.


The protests, which began last week, have grown in size. Calls by Hong Kong officials and the Chinese government for the demonstrators to disperse have been ignored as Hong Kong residents have turned to social media and apps like FireChat to fuel the movement.


Although protests on the island are not uncommon, the Occupy Central movement - also known as the Umbrella Revolution - is one of the largest-scale rallies Hong Kong has seen since China assumed control from the British in 1997. While the movement is largely peaceful, police have used tear gas to try to disperse crowds, prompting protesters to use umbrellas as shields.


The demonstrators, many of them students, are demanding autonomous elections. China had pledge to allow free elections in 2017, but has backed away from that promise.

China has also censored mainland media coverage of the protests and blocked certain terms on popular social networking sites. More than a dozen pro-Hong Kong demonstrators have reportedly been detained for showing public support for what China says is a disruption of stability.


Leung's announcement that his government will speak with protesters was reportedly met with some optimism from students, who called for the talks to take place in public.


While many of the student protesters are too young to remember the events that took place in Tiananmen Square in 1989, they have grown up in a global, connected world that watched as protesters in places like Tunisia and Egypt successfully pressured their leaders to step down.

While Hong Kong's leaders seem to be following a similar path to leaders in the Middle East - ignore the protesters, acknowledge them, agree to meet, but refuse to give up power - few believe Leung will take the final step - resignation.


As a major world power, the chances of China bowing to student-led calls for democracy seem slim.

“China, I think, would suffer,"James Miles, China Editor for The Economist, told CNN, "as it feels it a considerable loss of face if it were to back down in the face of these demonstrations.”


Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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