HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters have an “almost zero chance” of changing Beijing’s stance and securing free elections, the city’s embattled Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in a TV show Sunday.
Demonstrators calling for Beijing to grant full democracy to the former British colony have paralysed parts of Hong Kong for more than two weeks, causing widespread disruption and prompting clashes between protesters and residents who opposed road blockades.
In an interview broadcast on a local channel TVB Sunday, Leung said the street protests had “spun out of control” and warned it was highly unlikely the action would alter Beijing’s position.
He added if the government had to clear the protests sites, police would use a “minimum amount of force” to handle the situation.
China announced in August that while Hong Kongers will be able to vote for Leung’s successor in 2017, only two or three vetted candidates will be allowed to stand – an arrangement the protesters dismiss as “fake democracy”.
Since last month students and pro-democracy campaigners have taken to their streets – sometimes in their tens of thousands – to call for Beijing to change its position and allow full, free and fair elections and to demand Leung’s resignation.
“In achieving universal suffrage in 2017, if the prerequisite is to put down the Basic Law and the decision made by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, I believe we all know that the chance (achieving) is almost zero,” Leung said during the TV interview.
Crunch talks between student leaders and city officials collapsed last week, plunging the former British colony which is now under Chinese rule, in to a fresh crisis as protesters have vowed to dig in for the long haul.
Leung was unable to say specifically how the current stalemate could end despite repeatedly asked by the programme host during the interview.
He added, “We’ve resorted to all kinds of persuasions, the way we resolve it in the end is being constantly reviewed. We absolutely would not prefer clearing the venue, but if one day the venue has to be cleared, I believe the police will use their professional judgement and training using minimum amount of force,” he said.
Leung also insisted he would not resign saying it would not resolve the situation.
A Hong Kong pro-government group said Saturday demonstrators would find themselves surrounded if the city’s administration failed to clear the barricades.
The Blue Ribbon Movement said the authorities should dismantle three sites the protesters have closed to traffic by Tuesday night or they would encircle them.