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Hong Kong's Renewed Offer Of Talks With Protesters Meets Skepticism

An umbrellas is placed near tents set up by pro-democracy protesters in an occupied area near government headquarters in Hong Kong on Thursday. Hong Kong officials have revived an offer for talks with the activists, but also emphasized that Beijing will never agreed to their demand for open elections. Vincent Yu/AP hide caption

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Vincent Yu/AP

An umbrellas is placed near tents set up by pro-democracy protesters in an occupied area near government headquarters in Hong Kong on Thursday. Hong Kong officials have revived an offer for talks with the activists, but also emphasized that Beijing will never agreed to their demand for open elections.

Vincent Yu/AP

Hong Kong's leader has revived the prospect of talks with student pro-democracy activists, after his government reneged last week on an offer of dialogue with protest leaders.

"As long as students or other sectors in Hong Kong are prepared to focus on this issue, yes we are ready, we are prepared to start the dialogue," the territory's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told reporters, according to The Associated Press.

The pro-democracy activists have called for Leung's resignation and for Beijing to make good on a long-standing promise for an open election to find his replacement. Earlier this year, the Chinese government insisted it would hand pick the pool of candidates.

NPR's Frank Langfitt, reporting that while the government says it will discuss the 2017 vote, it emphasized that Beijing will never accept protesters' demands for an open election.

Ronnie Tam, who handles Hong Kong's relations with China, spoke at a news conference, saying both sides needed to be "realistic" about the outcome of such talks.

"There are many years ahead for our young students," he said. "If they can step a little bit and look beyond 2017, maybe many of their aspirations could be addressed in future years as well."

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Leung said that undisclosed middlemen had been in touch with student protest leaders to convey the government's wishes, the AP reports.

There was no official response to the offer, but The South China Morning Post quotes Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit as suggesting the proposed dialogue would likely prove one-sided:

"'What CY Leung has in mind is, obviously, to lecture the students, instead of having a genuine dialogue,' he says.

"'But I would hope that the Federation of Students would ... say yes to the dialogue [because] it is important for [Leung's] lack of genuineness to be exposed to both the Hong Kong public and the world by this so-called dialogue.'"

The renewed offer comes on the same day that seven Hong Kong police officers have been suspended for the alleged videotaped beating a protester.

As The New York Times reports:

"The video of the advocate, Ken Tsang, being kicked and beaten in a predawn melee, along with pictures of his bruised body, became an emotion-laden focus for critics of the government after a night of mayhem near the city's heart. They gave a face to accusations that pro-democracy demonstrators have been targeted by an overzealous police force.

"A video filmed by TVB, a usually pro-government television station, showed a bearded man in a black T-shirt being led away by officers in civilian clothes and black police vests, his hands behind him. The video then jumps to a scene in which a man lying on the ground is kicked and hit many times by several figures who appear to be police officers. TVB said the beating had lasted about four minutes."

The talks were first proposed amid heightened tensions as tens of thousands of student protesters were on the streets earlier this month, was first agreed to on Oct. 2, but activists called off the talks the next day after what they described as hired thugs attacked their protest camps.