Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam offers closed-door talks, but students want open meeting

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam reached out to the students' unions of at least two universities via their administrations.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam reached out to the students' unions of at least two universities via their administrations.

They also demand dropping of all charges against those who took part in protests from June 9 to July 1

Hong Kong's embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam has asked to meet students and others, in what appears to be a move to mitigate tensions that have been building up between the city's leadership and protesters.

Mrs Lam reportedly reached out to the students' unions of at least two universities - Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - via their university administrations for a closed-door meeting.

So far, neither group has accepted the invitation to meet Mrs Lam.

Since June 9, protesters have been taking to the streets to oppose a controversial extradition Bill, which could see suspects in the territory sent to mainland China.

The protesters fear that if passed, the Bill would erode Hong Kong's autonomy and could be used to target Beijing's critics.

HKUST, CUHK and the University of Hong Kong (HKU) are the three top tertiary institutions in the city. HKU students have not been invited to meet Mrs Lam.

At a news conference yesterday, student representatives from eight universities and institutes of higher learning listed two conditions that the government would need to satisfy if it wanted the meeting to happen.

First, the government must drop all charges against those who took part in the protests from June 9 to July 1; and second, it must hold an open, not closed-door, meeting.

 
 

On Monday - 22 years after Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule by the British on July 1, 1997 - student protesters besieged the Legislative Council building before storming and ransacking the place.

"We want the meeting to be open because our students' unions are not representative of all protesters in Hong Kong. We cannot claim to be representative of all their views," Mr Vincent Ng, a vice-president of HKUST's students' union, told The Straits Times.

The business undergraduate added that if the closed-door talks failed, those who took part could be blamed, and this would affect the unity of the protest movement.

"We are open to having a dialogue, but if we talk, we should talk together, with representatives from different sectors, and the meeting should be open to the public and media," said Mr Ng, 20.

Mrs Lam's spokesman said the Chief Executive will be arranging to meet not just students' unions but other young people, and those from political parties. These meetings would be held in a "small-scale and closed-door manner" to facilitate an "in-depth and frank exchange of views".

HKU students' union representative Jordan Pang said he felt the government called for a meeting with students from just the two universities because it wanted "to understand or know our stance first".

But he also noted that the two students' unions were not representative of all students.

"We are not being unreasonable. This is a public movement, it doesn't make sense to just meet this small group of students," he said.

CUHK vice-chancellor and president Rocky Tuan yesterday urged all parties to come toge-ther to set up a platform for dialogue that would include government and citizens from various backgrounds.

He said in an open letter that such dialogue "will shed light on a way forward to put the society on the path of reconciliation".

Meanwhile, street artist Pun Ho Chiu, nicknamed Painter, became the first person to be prosecuted for his involvement in the protests.

The 31-year-old was charged yesterday with assaulting a police officer, criminal damage and disorderly behaviour during the siege of the police headquarters on June 21.

Police have yet to release the number of protesters rounded up so far, but dozens are believed to have been arrested.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2019, with the headline 'Lam offers closed-door talks, but students want open meeting'. Print Edition | Subscribe