HONG KONG (REUTERS/ AFP) - Hong Kong protesters planned to march to the home of the city's Beijing-backed leader on Wednesday to push their case for greater democracy a day after talks between student leaders and senior officials failed to break the deadlock.
Protesters plan to march from their main camp to the residence of Hong Kong leader Leung Chun Ying at 1.30pm, and will repeat their calls for him to step down.
"I am going to join the march this afternoon to express my dissatisfaction," said Mr Kelvin Kwan, a 29-year-old social work graduate who camped with protesters overnight in the Mong Kok district.
Mr Andy Lau, a 19-year-old college student, said now was the time to step things up. "I think it is time to seriously consider escalating the movement, such as expanding our occupation to many more places to pressure the government to really face and answer our demands," he said.
Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests' student leaders were noticeably muted in their response to the first talks on Tuesday with the government that yielded no breakthrough, calling the government "vague" in its commitment to finding a compromise and said they would need to consult before agreeing to further negotiations.
"The government played tai chi for two hours," student leader Lester Shum told crowds of cheering supporters late on Tuesday.
“About whether there will be talks in the future this is something that isn’t decided,” another student leader Alex Chow told reporters on Wednesday morning.“The government has to come up with some way to solve this problem, but what they are offering does not have any practical content,” he said, adding protesters will not leave the streets any time soon.
After the talks, Mr Chow had told reporters: "Our feeling towards the meeting today would be quite complicated."
He lamented the lack of "concrete proposals" from the government. "Right now I believe most of the participants or protesters in different areas, they are still observing and thinking 'What proposal is the government really proposing?' It is kind of vague," he said, adding he would hold further talks with supporters to decide what to do next.
He and fellow student leaders later called for crowds to remain on the streets to keep pressure on the government.
Student leaders faced off with government negotiators during the tense two-hour meeting in which both sides agreed on little as the discussions were broadcast live to thousands of rapt democracy demonstrators camped out on the street.
Five student leaders, dressed in T-shirts bearing the slogan "Freedom Now" faced off against five suited senior government officials in talks at a medical college campus.
Government negotiators responded positively to the meeting, saying they hoped for further talks down the line.
"Today's dialogue will hopefully be the first of several rounds of dialogue," Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who led the government team, told reporters whilst emphasising there could be no changing Beijing's mind on the rejection of civil nomination.
During the discussions, government officials said there was still room to make the panel charged with vetting candidates for the city's next leader more democratic.
They also said they would brief Beijing on recent events and suggested both sides could set up a committee to discuss further political reform beyond 2017.
But there was no breakthrough in the talks that were a bid to end three weeks of disruptive mass rallies that have posed a major challenge to Beijing.
Observers had hoped that the talks, which were abruptly cancelled earlier this month and then resurrected after recent outbreaks of violence between protesters and the police, would help find some sort of compromise.
Hours before the meeting began, the city's embattled Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying - who was not invited by students to attend the talks - offered a possible compromise in the form of a more democratically chosen nominating panel for candidates at the next election.
"There is room for discussion there, there's room to make the nominating committee more democratic and this is one of the things we'd very much like to talk to not just the students but the community at large about," he said.
Mr Leung was picked by a pro-Beijing committee in 2012. His offer is still a long way from meeting the core demands of protesters, but could offer both sides a way out of the impasse.
At the three protest sites occupied by demonstrators, thousands watched proceedings live-streamed onto large screens or huddled around mobile phones and laptops.
Student leaders were loudly cheered and applauded by the crowds, while government negotiators were often jeered.
Some of those camped on the streets saw the talks as a significant moment after weeks of stalemate.
"This is the first time we were actually able to sit down with the government, so in that sense this is something of a victory. There's no way they can ignore us now," Mr Danny Ng, 19, told AFP at the main protest site opposite the government's headquarters.
But Ms Joy Lam, a 36-year-old social worker, was less optimistic.
"It's not good, the government is still telling us what to do. I don't think we will get any agreement because this government is still ignoring the people's hopes and wishes," she said.
Though largely peaceful, the rallies have seen increasing confrontations in the past week as the police tried to clear some of the protest sites. There are fears any breakdown in the talks could spark fresh violence.
Several major intersections in the business hub have been paralysed since Sept 28 by mass rallies demanding free elections, in one of the biggest challenges to Beijing's authority since the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests of 1989.
Protesters are demanding China rescind its insistence that candidates for the city's next leader be vetted by a pro-Beijing committee before standing for election in 2017 - a proposal dubbed "fake democracy" by demonstrators.
Protesters want the public to be able to nominate candidates but the city's government has said China will never allow that.