Hong Kong students reject closed-door talks with city leader

HONG KONG (AP) – Student unions from two Hong Kong universities said yesterday that they have turned down invitations from city leader Carrie Lam for talks about the recent unrest over her proposal to allow the extradition of suspects to mainland China.

The invitations followed a pledge by Lam to do a better job of listening to the voices of young people.

Student leaders said at a news conference that they do not think Lam is being sincere. Her office invited them to closed-door meetings, but the students said any meeting should be public and include a wider representation than just them.

“A closed-door meeting does not have any witnesses to prove what was discussed, the public does not know what the dialogue was about,” said Jordan Pang from the University of Hong Kong Students’ Union. “The public has the right to know.”

Vice President of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Students’ Union Ng Yat Ming said they would be condemned as traitors if they negotiated with Lam on behalf of the public.

“We believe it is a PR stunt,” he said.

Young people have taken the lead in protesting against the extradition legislation, which many see as a threat to the rights guaranteed to Hong Kong under the  “one country, two systems” framework that governs the Chinese territory.

Lam, who was appointed as Hong Kong’s leader by a committee dominated by pro-Beijing elites, suspended the legislation indefinitely after a huge march against it on June 9 and then a June 12 demonstration that blocked access to the legislature and nearby streets.

The protesters remain unsatisfied and have escalated their tactics. They are demanding formal withdrawal of the extradition bill, Lam’s resignation, the release of dozens arrested after the protests and an independent investigation into a police crackdown on the June 12 protest that included tear gas and rubber bullets.

On Monday, one group smashed through thick windows to break into the legislature building on a national holiday that marked the return of Hong Kong from Britain to China in 1997. They spray-painted slogans on the walls and damaged the fire prevention and electronic voting systems.

The legislature has decided to suspend meeting until October for repairs to its heavily damaged complex.