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Jacky So says a meeting will only be considered after the government addresses their demands. Photo: Winson Wong

Hong Kong student leaders reject government’s offer of private meeting about extradition protests, calling it ‘too little, too late’

  • Student leaders say government invited them for meeting – but they turned it down as not enough sectors of society would be present
  • University student union leader says: ‘We don’t want it to be just a public relations stunt’

In what appears to be the first olive branch extended to Hong Kong’s angry young people, the government has invited university students to a private meeting about the recent protests that shocked the world.

Student leaders from the University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and Chinese University on Thursday confirmed the government had invited them for a dialogue through the schools’ administration – but said they rejected the offer.

“We do not want it to be just a public relations stunt,” said Jacky So Tsun-fung, president of Chinese University’s student union. “We will only consider it after the government addresses our demands.”

The government’s overture came after hundreds of mostly young protesters stormed the city’s legislature, writing slogans on the wall, defacing Hong Kong’s official emblem and smashing equipment, furniture and work areas.
The Legislative Council was ransacked on July 1 after being attacked for hours. Photo: Winson Wong
Among the protesters’ demands were for Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to fully withdraw the now-suspended extradition bill and to order an independent inquiry into the use of force by police during clashes on June 12.

So described the government’s move as “too little, too late”. He said public opposition to the bill – which would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to mainland China and other jurisdictions with which the city had no extradition agreement – was made clear long ago.

“They could have asked for such a dialogue well before the crisis erupted in June,” he said, adding that no further details of the meeting had been provided.

The government, So said, should also engage the wider public instead of just the student groups.

In a written statement, the provisional executive committee of HKUST’s student union said it had turned down the request – which it received on Wednesday – straight away.

The student leaders said any potential meeting about the protests should include representatives from different sectors of the city and be made public.

Student representatives of other public universities had so far not received any invitations.

A spokeswoman for the Chief Executive’s Office said Lam had invited young people from different backgrounds to meet, including university students and those who took part in recent demonstrations.

They could have asked for such a dialogue well before the crisis erupted in June
Jacky So, president of Chinese University’s student union.

“The purpose of the meeting was to listen in depth and communicate frankly. Therefore, the chief executive hoped the meeting would be held in a small-scale and closed-door manner, and the meeting arrangement would not be released,” she said.

“The chief executive said [on July 1] that the government’s style of governance needs to be changed to make it more open and accommodating. The way officials listen to public views also needs to be reformed.”

She added: “We note the public response of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology student union. We hope that they would reconsider [the invitation].”

Carrie Lam recently invited young people from different backgrounds to meet, a spokeswoman said. Photo: Winson Wong
Separately, Cardinal John Tong Hon, head of Hong Kong’s Catholic community, said the diocese was concerned that some youngsters had become “so confused and perplexed as to reach the point of despair” over the recent social turmoil.

“We call on the government and all sectors of society, with one mind and heart, to work together promptly to seek solutions to our current dilemma,” Tong said in a statement. “We call for a ‘reconnect’ with our young people through dialogue.”

Tong was joined by presidents of two universities, who also called for constructive dialogue among all parties.

Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon of Lingnan University said he understood how members of society might have different views on social issues, but he could not tolerate any acts of violence.

The University of Science and Technology in Clear Water Bay. Photo: Warton Li

Education University’s Stephen Cheung Yan-leung said it was crucial for the government to “take the lead and to sincerely listen to the voices and aspirations of Hong Kong people”.

Also on Thursday, the Legco commission – which supervises the operation of the legislature – decided that no meetings would be held until October because finding a suitable venue instead of the vandalised Legco chambers would be difficult.

Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, the Legco president, revealed that a hard disk – which contained details of officials, journalists, lawmakers and their assistants who had visited the legislature – had gone missing during the protesters’ takeover. He said he had reported the case to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, but emphasised the disk did not contain identity card numbers of the visitors.