New York Times
HONG KONG - As demonstrators massed outside his offices Thursday night, Hong Kong's embattled chief executive rejected demands that he resign and tried to ease public anger by assigning his deputy to meet with student protesters to discuss their calls for democratic reform.
But the chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, who was anointed by Beijing to lead Hong Kong two years ago, said the talks would have to be in accordance with an earlier ruling by the Chinese leadership limiting the scope of political change here - a ruling that has been a target of the mass protests that have shaken this former British colony for nearly a week.
"I will not resign because I have to continue my work on universal suffrage," Leung said, referring to a proposal to allow residents of Hong Kong to elect his successor in 2017 from among a limited number of candidates approved by Beijing. He also defended the police's handling of the protests, which included an attempt to disperse crowds using pepper spray and tear gas that infuriated residents.
Hours later, one of the two main student groups behind the demonstrations, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, issued a statement agreeing to meet with Leung's deputy, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, but called for the talks to be held in public. It added that the protesters' "occupation" of key parts of Hong Kong would continue and that the outcome of the talks would determine whether they adopted more aggressive tactics.
Another protest group, Occupy Central, also welcomed the offer of talks but repeated demands that Leung step down and Beijing withdraw its ruling limiting political change.
Leung's remarks, made at a late-night news conference, were greeted with skepticism by some of the protesters camped outside his offices.
"We think he's playing for time to see which side can outlast the other," said Tiffany Ko, a student at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. "The dialogue will not be a real dialogue, that's clear already," she added. "He's just going around in circles."