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Meaningful dialogue a must in Hong Kong

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A modicum of calm appears to have returned to Hong Kong, although dozens of protesters are still holed up at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the city's mass transit system has been disrupted. This is after more than a week of some of the most violent clashes between police and protesters since the start of protests more than five months ago against a now-withdrawn extradition Bill. Both the government and pro-democracy protesters have dug deep into their positions: the government's that no more concessions will be given, and the protesters' that the authorities should yield to all five of their demands, not one fewer. The current relative calm was hard-won and involved many leaders in the community stepping forward to talk to and persuade most of the protesters to leave PolyU since Monday - almost 1,000 in all. Political and legal heavyweights, religious leaders and school principals went into the campus by turns to speak with the protesters and led many of them out. Those aged 18 and older were arrested and minors had their particulars taken before being allowed to go home.

While thousands turned out on streets close to the university on Monday and clashed with the police, only about 100 protesters were seen in the area on Tuesday. However, even this relative calm may not last if the long-standing impasse is not addressed. Violence may erupt again. As veteran politician Jasper Tsang told this newspaper, if the government does not come up with a new strategy to deal with the situation, more Hong Kongers will become demonstrators and more of the peaceful ones will turn violent.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2019, with the headline Meaningful dialogue a must in Hong Kong. Subscribe