Hong Kong protests: Govt confirms talks with student protesters on Oct 21

Policemen confront pro-democracy protesters during an attempt to remove them from a street in the Mong Kok shopping district of Hong Kong, on Oct 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Policemen confront pro-democracy protesters during an attempt to remove them from a street in the Mong Kok shopping district of Hong Kong, on Oct 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Police rinse a man's face with water after using pepper spray against him during a clash against pro-democracy protesters in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, on Oct 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Police rinse a man's face with water after using pepper spray against him during a clash against pro-democracy protesters in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, on Oct 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Riot policemen attempt to remove metal fences that were bound together and used as barricades by pro-democracy protesters in the Mong Kok shopping district of Hong Kong, on Oct 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Riot policemen attempt to remove metal fences that were bound together and used as barricades by pro-democracy protesters in the Mong Kok shopping district of Hong Kong, on Oct 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A policeman (left) shouts at a pro-democracy protester following a scuffle in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, on Oct 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A policeman (left) shouts at a pro-democracy protester following a scuffle in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, on Oct 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A riot policeman shouts at pro-democracy protesters as he attempts to remove a barricade from a street in the Mong Kok shopping district of Hong Kong, on Oct 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A riot policeman shouts at pro-democracy protesters as he attempts to remove a barricade from a street in the Mong Kok shopping district of Hong Kong, on Oct 18, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Police officers detaining Getty Images photographer Paula Bronstein during a confrontation between police and pro-democracy protesters at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong on October 17, 2014. Hong Kong riot police used pepper spray and baton ch
Police officers detaining Getty Images photographer Paula Bronstein during a confrontation between police and pro-democracy protesters at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong on October 17, 2014. Hong Kong riot police used pepper spray and baton charged pro-democracy protesters who mobilised en masse on Friday evening after a pre-dawn clearance of a major protest zone in the Chinese-controlled financial hub. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong clashed with police on Saturday as they reoccupied a protest camp mostly cleared the previous day, leading to multiple arrests and jeopardising government talks aimed at ending a political stalemate.  --
Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong clashed with police on Saturday as they reoccupied a protest camp mostly cleared the previous day, leading to multiple arrests and jeopardising government talks aimed at ending a political stalemate.  -- ST PHOTO: TEO CHENG WEE
Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong clashed with police on Saturday as they reoccupied a protest camp mostly cleared the previous day, leading to multiple arrests and jeopardising government talks aimed at ending a political stalemate.  --
Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong clashed with police on Saturday as they reoccupied a protest camp mostly cleared the previous day, leading to multiple arrests and jeopardising government talks aimed at ending a political stalemate.  -- ST PHOTO: TEO CHENG WEE
A man is detained by police during pro-democracy protests in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, on Oct 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A man is detained by police during pro-democracy protests in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, on Oct 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

TALKS between the government and student protesters, represented by the Federation of Students, will take place next Tuesday, announced Chief Secretary Carrie Lam on Saturday afternoon.

Both sides will despatch five people. The dialogue will last for about two hours and will be broadcast live.

It will be moderated by Lingnan University president Leonard K Cheng.

Tuesday's talks are the second round of negotiations brokered, after the first was called off at the final minute by Mrs Lam, following threats by the students to escalate their civil disobedience actions if their demands are not met.

Pro-democracy demonstrators clashed violently with police on Saturday as they reoccupied a protest camp mostly cleared the previous day, leading to multiple arrests and jeopardising government talks aimed at ending a political stalemate.

The police charged protesters using raised umbrellas for protection against pepper spray and batons on a busy main road in the bustling Mong Kok district, but were forced into a partial retreat as the sun began to rise, to cheers from the crowd.

Activists rushed to rebuild makeshift barricades in an area police had opened to traffic 24 hours earlier, while thousands of others staged a sit-in at the protest camp that has existed for nearly three weeks, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

The Hong Kong police said in a statement released early on Saturday they had made 26 arrests in confrontations with a crowd that had swelled to 9,000 people by 3am local time, with 15 officers sustaining injuries in the commotion.

Hong Kong police commissioner Andy Tsang told reporters on Saturday the force had been tolerant since the rallies began in hopes that the protesters would “calm down”.“Unfortunately these protesters chose to carry on with their unlawful acts, including acts which are even more radical and more violent,” Mr Tsang said. 

It was the third-consecutive night that violence has broken out after a fortnight of comparative calm - a development that risks sinking only recently resurrected plans to hold talks between student leaders and the city's Beijing-backed authorities.

Earlier in the day, officers had significantly reduced the size of the northern Mong Kok camp - the second largest after the main protest site opposite the government's headquarters in central Hong Kong - in a swift dawn raid that saw no resistance from demonstrators.

Mong Kok had previously seen clashes between protesters and masked government loyalists earlier in the month.

Throughout Friday, demonstrators managed to hold on to one side of a multi-lane road where the camp had been located. The police then struggled to maintain order as crowds of pro-democracy supporters began to swell during the evening.

"We want to take back this spot because it's what we had," said Mr Gary Yip, a 17-year-old high school student.

Violence broke out around 8pm after several protesters tried to push through a police cordon.

Protesters unfurled umbrellas and pushed against police lines, prompting officers in riot gear to respond with baton strikes and pepper spray in an attempt to hold back the surging crowds.

"The police have lost control of the situation. They've lost their minds," said protester Peter Yuen from behind the goggles he had donned to protect himself from pepper spray. "We've come here peacefully, to peacefully protest for our future."

Meanwhile, Ms Paula Bronstein, a photographer with the Getty Images agency, was arrested by police during the clashes for “suspicion of criminal damage” and later released on bail.

Getty Images agency photographer Paula Bronstein was arrested on Friday night amid confrontations between police and demonstrators. She said she was pushed against the car as violent scuffles broke out around her in the bustling Mongkok district. "I don't know why it (the arrest) even happened at all, I don't really understand it. I've never been arrested before in my life," Ms Bronstein told AFP. Cable Television footage showed the car Ms Bronstein stood on was a black Mercedes-Benz.

A police statement published on Saturday said a foreign woman had been arrested for "suspicion of criminal damage" and that the driver of the car had filed a complaint. "The driver of the car said there was damage and requested the police to handle the incident," the statement said without further detail.

"I'm wearing sneakers, I'm not wearing army boots, I don't weigh 300 pounds, I'm a very petite woman," Ms Bronstein said.

She was released on a HK$300 (S$49) bail and told to report back to the police at the end of the month.

On Thursday, the government had made a dramatic U-turn and announced a resumption of talks with the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), one of the groups leading the ongoing protests, after abruptly pulling out of discussions a week earlier.

But questions were soon raised over whether the talks could achieve a substantive breakthrough, with the government unwilling to cede to protesters' core demands and Mr Leung adamant that the police would continue to clear demonstrator-held barricades.

In a statement released shortly before renewed violence broke out in Mong Kok, the HKFS the HKFS imposed a deadline of next Wednesday for dialogue to begin with the government. Mr Leung had said on Thursday he would like to start talks within the following week.

But HKFS warned that the clearance of the camp earlier in the day had already "damaged the foundation of talks".

Confrontations have spiked in recent days as the police began chipping away at protester defences.

Tensions soared further after video footage emerged showing plainclothes police officers beating a handcuffed demonstrator in the early hours of Wednesday during some of the most violent clashes since the protests began.

The victim, a social worker and local party activist, was arrested after being seen throwing water over officers.

Seven officers involved in the beating video have been suspended pending an investigation.

The incident has become another public relations disaster for the police, who were severely criticised for firing tear gas on umbrella-wielding protesters on Sept 28 in a move that attracted worldwide attention.

The Asian financial hub has been rocked by demonstrations - some of which drew crowds of tens of thousands - calling for free elections and the resignation of the city's leader Leung Chun Ying.

Protesters have held sit-ins at three major intersections causing significant disruption to a city usually known for its stability, and presenting Beijing with one of the most significant challenges to its authority since the 1989 Tiananmen protests.

China has insisted that Mr Leung's successor must be vetted by a loyalist committee before standing for election in 2017, a proposal protesters have dismissed as "fake democracy".

With input from Agence France-Presse