Government source hints at tougher line on Occupy protests if deadlock persists
Hawks may trump doves in debate on tactics to deal with protests if deadlock remains, they say
Hong Kong's government yesterday increased pressure on Occupy protesters, warning that "hawks" favouring tough action to clear sit-in sites would gain the upper hand if the deadlock between officials and student leaders was not resolved soon.
The warning came a day after unprecedented talks between top officials and student leaders failed to persuade the protesters to end the occupation that has paralysed parts of the city for more than three weeks.
"If the conciliatory approach doesn't work, doves within the government would be sidelined while hawks would gain the upper hand," one person familiar with the situation said.
"We are worried that the administration would eventually use force to disperse protesters and a certain degree of bloodshed would be unavoidable."
Tensions rose at the Occupy protest sites, with a new application for a court order to eject the crowd on Harcourt Road in Admiralty and a man splashing a flammable solvent at Mong Kok protesters.
Neither the government nor the Federation of Students have announced plans to seek a second round of talks to end the protests, triggered by restrictive rules for the 2017 chief executive election laid down by Beijing in August.
Federation leader Alex Chow Yong-kang said his group had not decided whether to seek another meeting.
"Officials made half a step and showed they were willing to talk," Chow said. "But unfortunately, they took us nowhere and their ideas offered no fundamental cure for the problems."
In the televised talks, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told students she would consider making a report to the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office to reflect the public sentiments during the pro-democracy protests.
But she rejected students' demand that Hong Kong ask the national legislature to withdraw its framework for the 2017 poll, under which the public could vote on two or three candidates who win support from a majority of a 1,200-strong nominating committee. Lam also said a "platform" would be set up to gauge views on further constitutional changes beyond 2017.
A government source questioned the use of further dialogue if students refused to retreat from protest sites, asking: "What can we achieve if student leaders stick to their guns?"
Chinese University vice chancellor Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu said he hoped there would be further talks. Sung, who is understood to have communicated closely with the federation leaders, recognised both sides had expressed sincerity and said students were "very mature and well prepared" for the talks.
Executive Councillors Lam Woon-kwong and Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun also called for further talks.
Separately, China used the visit of jazz star Kenny G to the Admiralty protest site yesterday to reiterate its warning against foreign interference.
"Kenny G's music is popular in China but China's position on the illegal Occupy Central activities in Hong Kong is very clear," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.