Posts Tagged ‘negotiations’

Putin Warns North Korea Situation on Verge of ‘Large-Scale Conflict’ — “Putting pressure on Pyongyang to halt North Korea’s nuclear missile programs is erroneous and futile.”

September 1, 2017

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Friday that the tense standoff between North Korea and the United States was on the verge of large-scale conflict and said it was a mistake to try to pressure Pyongyang over its nuclear missile program.

Putin, who is due to attend a summit of the BRICS nations in China next week, wrote in an article published on the Kremlin’s web site ahead of his trip that he favored negotiations with North Korea instead.

“It is essential to resolve the region’s problems through direct dialogue involving all sides without advancing any preconditions (for such talks),” Putin wrote.

“Provocations, pressure, and bellicose and offensive rhetoric is the road to nowhere.”

Image result for putin, photos

The situation on the Korean Peninsula had deteriorated so much that it was now “balanced on the verge of a large-scale conflict,” said the Russian leader.

North Korea has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States and has recently threatened to land missiles near the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

On Monday, Pyongyang, which sees joint war games between the United States and South Korea as preparations for invasion, raised the stakes in its stand-off with the United States and its allies by firing an intermediate-range missile over Japan.

“In Russia’s opinion the calculation that it is possible to halt North Korea’s nuclear missile programs exclusively by putting pressure on Pyongyang is erroneous and futile,” Putin wrote.

A road map formulated by Moscow and Beijing, which would involve North Korea stopping work on its missile program in exchange for the United States and South Korea halting large-scale war games, was a way to gradually reduce tensions, wrote Putin.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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North Korea Says Donald Trump is “Bereft of Reason” — “Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy”

August 10, 2017

In another escalation of strong rhetoric, Pyongyang has accused US President Donald Trump of being “bereft of reason.” Both Japan and South Korea have warned the North over its latest threats to the US territory of Guam.

North Korea attack USAEPA

WW3? New photos show North Korea has been planning a US attack for years

North Korea’s military on Thursday described overt threats from US President Donald Trump as a “load of nonsense,” marking another uptick in strong rhetoric increasing tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.

“Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him,” the military said in comments carried by state-run news agency KCNA.

Read more: Can North Korea’s elites oust Kim Jong Un?

The report added that actions the North Korean military “is about to take” will be effective in restraining Washington’s “frantic moves.” North Korean military officials said plans for an attack on the US territory of Guam will be ready by mid-August, after which they will be presented to the country’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Tensions have soared in the past week with Trump striking a combative tone, saying Tuesday that North Korea “best not make any more threats” against the US. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” he added.

On Thursday, a deputy assistant to Trump, Sebastian Gorka told BBC radio: “Donald Trump has been unequivocal: he will use any appropriate measures to protect the United States and her citizens.”

“We do not telegraph our future scenarios and how we are going to react,” Gorka said. “If you show players around a table your poker hand, you will lose that game. It is not a good idea in cards, it is a very bad idea in geopolitics.”

‘Never tolerate’ provocations

Early Thursday, both Japan and South Korea warned Pyongyang over its latest threats.

South Korea’s military said Pyongyang would face a “stern and strong” response from Washington and Seoul if it goes ahead with plans to fire rockets near Guam.

The US and South Korea are prepared to “immediately and sternly punish” provocations from North Korea, said Roh Jae-cheon, spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Tokyo added that Japan “can never tolerate” such provocations from North Korea. Japan’s Defense Ministry noted that technically the country could intercept a Guam-bound missile if it appeared to be an existential threat.

US State Secretary Rex Tillerson on Wednesday tried to defuse the situation, telling reporters aboard his plane that there wasn’t “any immediate threat” to the island of Guam after Pyongyang said it was considering plans to target areas surrounding the US territory.

“Americans should sleep well at night,” he said in an attempt to calm fears of a possible military conflict between the US and North Korea. “Nothing that I have seen and nothing that I know of would indicate that the situation has dramatically changed in the last 24 hours.”

Map of the Pacific Ocean showing Guam and Hawaii, the US and North Korea

War of words

However, soon after Tillerson’s remarks, Trump appeared to up the stakes again by praising US nuclear armaments, saying they had become “stronger and more powerful than ever before” since the start of his presidency.

…Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!

That announcement came just hours after President Donald Trump (above on Tuesday) delivered his fiercest warning yet to North Korea Tuesday afternoon

That announcement came just hours after President Donald Trump (above on Tuesday, in Bedminster, NJ)

The escalation in rhetoric follows the release of a Japanese defense paper and reports by multiple US media outlets that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged North Korea to stop considering any actions that would “lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

Pyongyang “would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates,” he said in a statement.

Beijing: Situation ‘sensitive’

Several world powers, including Germany, have urged both sides to show restraint. China has described the situation as “highly complicated and sensitive.”

“We hope all relevant parties speak cautiously and move prudently, stop provoking each other, avoid further escalating the situation and strive to return to the correct track of dialogue and negotiations as soon as possible,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Read more: What is China’s role in the North Korean crisis?

Meanwhile, North Korea on Wednesday said it had released Hyeon Soo Lim, a South Korean-born Canadian citizen, on humanitarian grounds.

The 61-year-old Lim, who had worked as a Presbyterian pastor in Canada, was arrested in North Korea in early 2015 and handed a life sentence of hard labor. Pyongyang claims the pastor was attempting to overthrow the regime, which Canadian authorities vehemently deny.

http://www.dw.com/en/north-korea-donald-trumps-threats-load-of-nonsense/a-40025871

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The Express

Dictator  has been plotting a US attack plan since 2013 at the latest, when he was photographed deep in conversation with close advisors.

The photos show the despot poring over maps and making notes while a huge map in the background is emblazoned with a terrifying Korean heading.

Alongside various arrows, denoting the direction and speed of fearsome missiles, the text reads: “Strategic Forces’ US Mainland Striking Plan.“

Other photos taken at the same time show North Korean soldiers taking part in a US attack military drill.

The malnourished soldiers, dressed in ill-fitting military gear, are shown firing bullets at a cutout of an American soldier, complete with a cartoon ‘USA’ hat.

The photos have emerged as the world prepares for the ever-escalating conflict between North Korea and the USA to erupt into all-out war.

Last night  announced it was preparing to attack the US territory of Guam, just hours after US president  promised to deliver “fire and fury” if provoked.

Despot Kim has now gathered trusted advisers in Pyongyang to consider the implications of an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) attack.

Guam and Hawaii at risk of North Korea nuclear strike

Any attack on the island territory of Guam would almost certainly result in a retaliatory nuclear strike by Donald Trump on North Korea.

The conflict has the potential to spark  with military heavyweights Russia and China then forced to pick sides.

READ MORE: Will Donald Trump go to war with North Korea?

North Korea attack USAEPA

North Korea attack: Kim Jong-un was photographed in front of a revealing map

Mr Trump further escalated the situation by taking part in a joint military drill with Japan in which the two nations flew fighter jets near North Korean territory.

North Korea denounced the war-gaming, which used US pilots in Japanese and South Korean planes, as an “actual nuclear drill” and claimed it was just provocation for a retaliatory strike.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/838931/north-korea-photos-war-guam-usa-kim-jong-un-ww3

The world is holding its breath today amid fears the crisis over North Korea could spiral in to global war after Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un made unprecedented threats to trade devastating missile strikes

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4773702/US-offers-sneak-peak-Trump-s-fire-fury.html#ixzz4pL8llyp6
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Op-Ed: If we’re going to rule out negotiations with North Korea, we have to be ready for war — Chinese air traffic controllers eager to chase away U.S. military aircraft

March 23, 2017

By Robert L. Gallucci
The Los Angeles Times

March 23, 2017

Image may contain: airplane and sky

Robert L. Gallucci

During a visit to Seoul last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson drew some reddish lines around North Korea.

“Twenty years of talking has brought us to the point we are today,” Tillerson said at a news conference. “Talk is not going to change the situation.” If North Korea threatens South Korean or American forces or elevates the level of its weapons program, Tillerson warned, preemptive military action is “on the table.”

Tillerson’s comments did not come entirely out of left field. For months, Washington has been abuzz over the possibility that North Korea may successfully test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to an American city. In a New Year’s address, North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un indicated such a test could come sooner than we think.

But Tillerson’s warning did signal that the Trump administration is taking U.S. policy toward North Korea in a new direction — that we may be serious about abandoning engagement and willing to pursue containment through military action.

If North Korea is newly capable of striking an American city with a nuclear-armed missile, however, it would not be the first time that the U.S. was defenseless against an adversary’s weapons.

Americans lived for years with Soviet and Chinese missiles pointing in our direction. We had no way to defend against Soviet missiles in the 1950s, nor Chinese missiles in the 1960s. We were worried in 1960 when Nikita Khrushchev, then the Soviet leader, pounded his shoe against a table during a session of the United Nations General Assembly. For many reasons, Mao worried us even more.

Analysts can read Tillerson’s comments in different ways. If he meant to indicate that the U.S. would undertake a military strike on North Korea to prevent the testing and development of an ICBM — a “left of launch” program, as the Pentagon would call it — such an act could not properly be called preemption, because it would not be responding to an imminent attack. Rather, we would be taking preventive action and risking a preventive war with the goal of cutting off the emergence of a future threat. The invasion of Iraq in 2003, for instance, was a preventive war, not an act of preemption. Ethics, law and prudence are on the side of preemption but not on preventive strikes.

If, on the other hand, the U.S. intelligence community were to conclude that North Korea was about to launch a missile at Los Angeles, Seoul or Tokyo, we should fully expect Trump to order a preemptive strike to take out the missile before it is launched. If this is the only line Tillerson meant to draw, he should have saved the ink and not made news with the threat.

In either scenario, we can expect that attacking North Korea, even with an intended “surgical strike,” will bring retaliation, most likely against South Korean and American forces and civilians on the Korean peninsula — there are a lot of both within range of North Korean missiles and artillery — and possibly a second Korean War. The U.S. and its allies should be ready for this. At the moment, neither we nor our allies are prepared for war.

With so much at stake, Tillerson should disclose what exactly is new about the North Korean threat that makes deterrence suddenly unreliable. Certainly it is not the quality or quantity of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. At the height of the Cold War, the number of Soviet weapons — counting tactical and strategic weapons deployed in silos, on submarines and aboard bombers —reached 30,000 or so. The North Koreans have less than 20. It is possible that U.S. officials lack confidence in the rationality of Kim Jong Un. If this is the case, the American people should be informed that this is why we are risking another Korean War.

Some argue that an alternative to military action is the adoption of tougher sanctions together with more pressure on China to allow them to work. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such an approach, there is little reason to think it will be effective in stopping North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. So the real alternative to war is a negotiated settlement that addresses the threat. There is a lot of work yet to be done in order to set the table for productive negotiations. More than 20 years ago, we struck a deal with the North that froze plutonium production for almost a decade before the deal collapsed: They cheated and we caught them. That was still a deal worth making, and the next one will have to be better. For starters, we should require that North Korea improve the human rights of its citizens as a condition of normalizing relations with the U.S.

The United States has no real capability to shoot down ICBMs, but we never have. We have been defenseless against this threat for six decades. For all those years, we have relied on deterrence and the promise of devastating retaliation. The logic is that the capability of our conventional and nuclear weapons deters our enemies and provides for the nation’s security. If the U.S. is going to abandon this logic now, it should be done with great care, and with the full understanding that we are risking war.

Robert L. Gallucci is a professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University. He served in the State Department as chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994, and as an ambassador-at-large and special envoy dealing with threats posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-gallucci-north-korea-icbm-missiles-tillerson-20170323-story.html

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China threatens American B-1 bomber flying off South Korea: Stand off as Beijing claims US aircraft violated its ‘defense zone’

  • China has accused the US plane of operating in its airspace without permission 
  • Pliots of a Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber were forced to respond to controllers 
  • Chinese Air Traffic officials radioed the bomber flying 70 miles from Jeju Island 
  • The US bomber was in the controversial Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone
  • American and Japanese officials do not recognize the airspace China claism 

Chinese military officials have accused US bombers of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea.

Pilots of the US Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber were forced to respond to Chinese air traffic controllers during a flight about 70 nautical miles southwest of South Korea’s Jeju Island.

American officials told CNN the pilots told the Chinese controllers they were conducting ‘routine operations in international airspace and did not deviate from their flight path’.

Chinese military officials have accused a US B-1B Lancer bomber of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea

Chinese military officials have accused a US B-1B Lancer bomber of flying too close to the country and operating in its airspace during a mission off South Korea

This map shows where the bomber was flying when Chinese officials contacted the American pilots during the stand off

This map shows where the bomber was flying when Chinese officials contacted the American pilots during the stand off

The network revealed the tense moment was the result of the bombers had actually entered the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone – a controversial area of sky over the East China Sea.

The airspace also covers islands claimed by Japan, and it is not officially recognized by the US.

‘Pacific Air Forces … did not recognize the Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone when it was announced in November of 2013, and does not recognize it today,’ US Pacific Air Forces spokesman Major Phil Ventura told CNN.

This map shows how the different airspaces in the area in question are divided up by the different countries in the region

This map shows how the different airspaces in the area in question are divided up by the different countries in the region

The US B-1B Lancer bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s on March 21

The US B-1B Lancer bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s on March 21

‘The ADIZ has not changed our operations.’

Chinese authorities demand airplanes flying over or through the airspace must first notify officials.

US Air Force sources said B-1 bomber was carrying out training operations with Japanese and South Korean jets in recent days.

On March 21, the American bomber was seen flying in formation with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15s.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Says Missiles More Important Than Diplomacy — Calls for Iran to avoid further rapprochement with the United States and its allies

March 30, 2016
Business | Wed Mar 30, 2016 5:46am EDT

Khamenei says missiles, not talks, key to Iran’s future

Iran’s top leader on Wednesday said missiles were key to the Islamic Republic’s future, offering support to the hardline Revolutionary Guards that have drawn criticism from the West for testing ballistic missiles.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei supported last year’s nuclear deal with world powers but has since called for Iran to avoid further rapprochement with the United States and its allies, and maintain its economic and military strength.

“Those who say the future is in negotiations, not in missiles, are either ignorant or traitors,” Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, was quoted as saying by his website.

“If the Islamic Republic seeks negotiations but has no defensive power, it would have to back down against threats from any weak country.”

His comments may have been directed at former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the de facto leader of a more moderate political alliance, who last week tweeted “the future is in dialogue, not missiles”.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards conducted ballistic missile tests earlier this month, in what they said was a demonstration of Iran’s non-nuclear deterrent power.

The United States and several European powers said the tests defied a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls on Iran not to test nuclear-capable missiles, in a joint letter seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

But Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, said the tests did not violate Resolution 2231. Iran has consistently denied that its missiles are designed to carry nuclear weapons.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Writing by Sam Wilkin; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Alison Williams)

China Says Diplomacy in the South China Sea To Resolve Disputes

April 2, 2015

By Wu Shicun(Chinadaily.com.cn)

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2015 Bo’ao Forum for Asia in Hainan province on March 28, President Xi Jinping reiterated that, “all of us must oppose interference in other countries’ internal affairs and reject attempts to destabilize the region out of selfish motives”. His remarks was echoed by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who pledged that Beijing would follow the dual-track approach to solve disputes in the South China Sea.

According to the approach, agreed to by China and most members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations last November, specific disputes should be resolved through negotiations and consultations between relevant countries based on international law and respect for historical facts.

The dual-track approach, crucial for maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea and its surrounding areas, represents Beijing’s consistent maritime policy and suits most ASEAN member states which seek cooperation and development as well. Accordingly, its implementation should be the priority for all sides locked in maritime disputes.

To begin with, the approach calls for scientific definition of the South China Sea issues in order to seek resolutions and, more importantly, to prevent the situation from worsening. Over the past years, frequent outside interventions have heightened regional tensions and given rise to a complex game among the different stakeholders in the South China Sea.

Since the Beijing-proposed approach makes it perfectly clear that the South China Sea issues are essentially disputes between China and some of its neighbors over the sovereignty of some islands and maritime jurisdictions, they should be resolved through peaceful negotiations by the parties concerned.

Moreover, because ASEAN is a regional organization and not a sovereign state, it cannot be part of the negotiations with China to discuss the disputes. Yet China and ASEAN are equally obliged to maintain peace and stability in the region, because the South China Sea issues have a lot to do with ASEAN’s overall interests and ongoing economic integration.

Negotiations, which are often easier to accept and less likely to create controversies between/among disputing countries, can also serve as a major diplomatic means which the dual-track approach calls for. At their 13th Joint Working Group Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in Myanmar on March 30-31, China and ASEAN both expressed their sincere willingness to hold negotiations to resolve the disputes.

China has consistently pushed for peaceful negotiations to end the disputes in the South China Sea. The drawing of demarcation lines in the South China Sea, including the one between China and Vietnam in the Beibu Gulf in 2000, and that between Indonesia and Malaysia in 1969 to decide their continental shelves, are conducive to the implementation of the dual-track approach, whose ultimate goal is to maintain permanent peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Apart from negotiations, pragmatic cooperation between China and the ASEAN economies, such as the serial working group meetings on implementing the DOC, plays a constructive role in maintaining peace and rebuilding mutual trust in the region. Also, to support cooperation in maritime issues in less-sensitive fields, China established the 3-billion-yuan ($483-million) ASEAN-China Maritime Cooperation Fund in 2011.

Being a key field in which China and its maritime neighbors cooperate to enhance their mutual economic interest, the South China Sea will become a weak link in the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative if tensions keep rising in the region. So, even on a broader canvas, the dual-track approach will accelerate the implementation of the new maritime Silk Road but only if the South China Sea is free of tension.

The author is president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies.

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Deal Between Hong Kong Protesters and Government Not Close

October 8, 2014

Updated Oct. 8, 2014 1:42 a.m. ET
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A pro-democracy protester sat on an occupied road in Hong Kong’s Admiralty district early on Wednesday. Protest leaders and government officials will begin formal talks on Friday over the standoff. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

HONG KONG—Pro-democracy protests that have rocked the city for days continued to snarl traffic and delay commuters on Wednesday even though the number of demonstrators in the streets has dwindled significantly.

But prospects for a breakthrough between student protest leaders and government officials were still several days away: The two sides said Tuesday night they will begin formal negotiations on Friday over the standoff.

And even as students agreed to the negotiations, they hardened their stance against the government and vowed to remain in the streets—a move that risks further alienating them from a Hong Kong public already grumbling over inconveniences caused by the mass rallies.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Lester Shum, deputy secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, blamed Hong Kong’s government for sparking the crisis, and said the government hadn’t taken direct responsibility for submitting what he called a “terrible proposal” for political reform to Beijing in July.

A student federation team was meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss the group’s next step.

In addition to the Hong Kong Federation of Students, a group of high-school-age protesters led by 17-year-old Joshua Wong has been a driving force in the protests. Mr. Wong said Wednesday that Scholarism wouldn’t be represented at the talks with the government.

Speaking outside his blue tent at the main protest site near the government offices in the city’s Admiralty district, Mr. Wong said Scholarism hadn’t yet been invited to join the talks. “If the government invites us, then we’ll go.”

See 360 Degree Views From Protest Sites

Admiralty, mid-protest. Henry Williams/The Wall Street Journal

Less than two weeks ago, the world watched Hong Kong protesters defend themselves against police tear gas and pepper spray. The WSJ’s Eva Tam lays out Occupy Central’s key events.

Video:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/hong-kong-protests-still-on-as-talks-set-1412743621

The main demand of students and their ally, Occupy Central, has been direct public nomination of chief executive candidates. That goes directly against Beijing’s decision that the nomination of candidates be approved by the committee.

Mr. Wong said the three groups remained in agreement. “Our goals are the same,” he said.

Lau Kong-wah, a representative for the government, said the negotiations would be open to the media and would involve no more than five representatives from each side. He spoke at the end of the third and final preparatory meeting with members of the student federation on Tuesday night.

Kit Chan, a student of Hong Kong Polytechic University who spent the night at the main protest site, said Wednesday morning that she feels frustrated with the government’s response.

“I don’t expect too much from the negotiations between students and the government,” she said. However, her own stamina for protesting was diminishing. “I don’t think I will come that often in the coming days,” she said.

Wong On-kei, a 39 year-old homemaker who also stayed overnight at the Admiralty protest site, said she wants to support the students as the crowds dwindle. “We can’t just leave without achieving anything,” she said.

Mr. Shum said he was disappointed and angry that the government still refuses to tackle the current political crisis directly, and urged “Hong Kong citizens and students to continue the occupation movement.” Mr. Shum warned the government and police not to try to clear the protest areas as it would jeopardize the discussions, and reiterated his anger at the use of force by police against students, including tear gas.

A pro-democracy student protester slept on a road surrounding government headquarters on Tuesday. Associated Press

“We hope [the government] is not using tricks to play us again…and that they can find courage and sincerity” to try and break the political impasse, he said.

Protest crowds have thinned in recent days, but demonstrators remained entrenched in some of the densely populated city’s busiest thoroughfares. Crowds swelled once again on Tuesday night, as the student federation made direct pleas to protesters to stay on the streets.

Mr. Shum insisted that the students weren’t losing bargaining power as numbers dwindle. “We have discussed with the students on the site, and we all insist to continue occupying,” he said Tuesday.

Nathan Law, a 21-year-old cultural-studies student who participated in Tuesday night’s talks with the government, said the protest crowds were drawing energy from the prospects of negotiations with the government.

“The people can visualize the dialogue,” Mr. Law said. He said protest organizers were concerned about community backlash over the protests, but he said he believed their goals overrode inconvenience.

But residents’ patience with traffic jams and other disruptions caused by the protests appears to be running thin, and retailers have said they are experiencing a sharp drop in sales.

When the formal talks begin, the two sides will need to confront stark differences between their positions, and the government has made clear it has very little wiggle room to offer. “The difficulty is that they are miles apart,” a government official familiar with the talks said.

The Chinese government decreed on Aug. 31 that Hong Kong residents will be able to directly elect the city’s chief executive for the first time in 2017. But it said candidates for the city’s top post must be approved by more than half of a nominating committee with a strong majority of pro-Beijing members, effectively eliminating chances that a candidate opposed by Beijing would be on the ballot.

The government has been clear that the rules set down by Beijing that any candidates would need to be approved by the 1,200-member nominating committee aren’t going to be revisited. People familiar with the government’s strategy say they would consider negotiating over the composition of that committee and on the rules governing who can be nominated.

The students first demanded that Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying resign but then appeared to back off after the government said that wouldn’t happen. “We don’t bother anymore,” said Alex Chow, one of the student leaders who negotiated with the government this week.

Mr. Lau said the meeting will be held at 4 p.m. Hong Kong time on Friday, but the venue has yet to be confirmed. The head of the government’s delegation will be the city’s No. 2 official, Carrie Lam. Mr. Lau said other government attendees will include the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen.

Despite the uncertainties, signs of normality were returning to Hong Kong. Some Chinese tour operators reported that Chinese authorities had again begun issuing group-tour permits for mainland tour groups to Hong Kong, which they said had been suspended by Chinese authorities last week.

It was unclear whether any restrictions remained in place, and some tour operators in Hong Kong and mainland China said Tuesday that the suspension hadn’t yet been lifted.

—Te-Ping Chen, Fiona Law and Jenny Hsu contributed to this article.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/hong-kong-protests-still-on-as-talks-set-1412743621

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Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters: Fewer but more determined — “The government has no sincerity.”

October 8, 2014

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HONGKONG_CHINA_Oct7

Pro-democracy protesters rest outside a HSBC branch, closed since the road was blocked, at Hong Kong’s Mongkok shopping district on Oct. 7, 2014. Reuters/Bobby Yip

By Cathy Chan and Clement Tan
Bloomberg

Hong Kong protest leaders agreed to hold two rounds of talks with the city’s government, saying the public’s desire for dialogue outweighed the students’ disappointment over the proposed agenda.

The talks will start at 4 p.m. local time on Oct. 10, with the first session focusing on the constitutional basis for political-system changes and the second on legal requirements, according to the government and the students.

That may mean the government won’t discuss making changes to rules laid down by China requiring all candidates to become the city’s chief executive be vetted by a committee. This is at odds with demonstrators’ core demand that the 2017 elections be more democratic, and may mean the discussions will make little progress and lead to further civil disobedience.

“The government has no sincerity,” Lester Shum, vice secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the main groups organizing the protest, said at a press briefing yesterday evening. The government has emphasized legal issues to rebuff demands for democracy, he said. “Political problems need to be resolved by political means,” Shum said.

A failure of the talks may lead to further civil disobedience, Shum said. The promise of negotiations had eased tensions in the streets this week as Hong Kong began to assess the impact of almost two weeks of demonstrations.

Shum urged the protesters to remain in the streets to put pressure on the government to make concessions, and said that any efforts to remove them or any failure to protect their safety will affect talks.

“We are planning on some other civil disobedience actions,” to maintain momentum, Shum said. The student leaders will speak with other protest-group organizers, including Occupy Central’s co-founders and Scholarism’s leaders, about who will attend Friday’s dialogue. Each side will have as many as five representatives.

“We feel very disappointed and very furious” about the talks agenda, Shum said. The government should have the courage to face the city’s real political issues, Shum said.

Shum blamed the impasse on Carrie Lam, the city’s top civil servant, for her part in drawing up China’s mandate for Hong Kong’s 2017 election, which requires a small committee to approve all candidates. “The government has not released any space to solve this political problem,” he said.

“The agenda should have been the result of a discussion, but it clearly isn’t in this case,” said Owen Lam, a 40-year-old demonstrator with a physics doctorate.“The first meeting shouldn’t be so technical, it should be about the broad direction. It suggests the government is resorting to tricks.”

While the government will present a “very rational case in the legal context,” this won’t satisfy the protesters and will bring many people back out into the streets, Lam said today. Lam said he thinks the government is stalling, and is playing to people who don’t support the Occupy movement.

Government representative Lau Kong-wah said yesterday that while the talks may be held in Wan Chai, discussions over the venue aren’t complete. The event will be closed to the public and open to journalists, Lau said. The students had demanded that the talks be open to the public.

Lau and Shum were speaking after the third round of preparatory meetings for talks.

Blockades Remain

Blockades remained last night at the three protest sites with groups of people strolling and taking pictures outnumbering demonstrators at the main hub in Admiralty. Nearby primary schools that had been shut due to the protests reopened yesterday, following the restart of secondary schools on Oct. 6.

With blocked roads remaining the main impediment to commerce, companies and politicians began assessing the economic impact of the protests. Retailers saw sales plunge during one of the biggest shopping weeks of the year.

“The ongoing protests, even if they end shortly, are likely to have a more visible impact on the city’s fourth-quarter growth, especially on retail and tourism,” Mole Hau, an economist with BNP Paribas SA, wrote in a note to investors.

The bulk of the fallout will come from lower spending during China’s Golden Week, a national holiday in the mainland that ended yesterday and overlapped the peak of the protests. Sales at major Hong Kong retailer chains have fallen as much as 50 percent during the bulk of the holidays, with those at small-to medium companies plunging as much as 80 percent, the Hong Kong Retail Management Association said Oct. 6.

HSI Rises

Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index gained for a third day, adding 0.5 percent at the close. The index is still down about 1 percent from its pre-protest level after falling more than 2.6 percent last week.

The protests were triggered by China’s decision that candidates for Hong Kong’s chief executive election be vetted by a committee. Pro-democracy groups say that will guarantee the candidates’ obedience to China. They’re seeking a more open system, as well as the resignation of current leader Leung Chun-ying.

The demonstrations attracted as many as 200,000 people last week, organizers said. Crowds have dwindled since student leaders started talks with the government.

Situation Calm

The rally sites remained calm yesterday with the police making no attempt to take down unmanned barriers. Student leaders have said they’d pull out of the talks aimed at resolving the city’s biggest upheaval since the 1960s if protest sites weren’t protected.

Alex Chow, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said by text message yesterday, before the most recent government meeting, that he’s “not very optimistic” about chances the two sides will resolve the issue via talks.

“If they have proposal, they would have given them out already,” Chow said in a response to questions. The struggle over the 2017 elections will move to the city’s legislature if talks fail. The students may take further action, he said, declining to disclose potential plans.

“There is very little room for negotiations and discussion, but hopefully now that the whole world has seen how peaceful this demonstration has been, I hope the leaders in China will make some concessions,” said Martin Lee, founder of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party and a supporter of the demonstrations.

As their numbers on the ground dwindled, protesters expressed some frustration.

“I’m disappointed that the turnout is low, but this is Hong Kong — people have to make a living and earn money,” said William Tsang, 32, who was putting up posters that read: “We have only one shot, don’t give up.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Cathy Chan in Hong Kong at kchan14@bloomberg.net; Clement Tan in Hong Kong at ctan297@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net Joshua Fellman, Justin Blum

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10-07/hong-kong-ponders-protest-impact-as-talks-ease-tensions.html

***********************

Good afternoon and welcome to our continuing coverage of the Occupy movement.

Occupy Central protest sites are quiet on Wednesday afternoon. Authorities kept their distance overnight.

The government has agreed to talks between Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and students to be held on Friday. Students reacted with disappointment because the agenda set by government did not directly address their demands – for genuine universal suffrage and public nomination.

Stay tuned for all the breaking news.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1611911/live-remaining-occupy-protesters-wary-government-dialogue-set-friday

2.10pm: A small Japanese/Korean restaurant in Causeway Bay is offering staggering price cuts in support of the pro-democracy movement.

“Support the Umbrella revolution, Hongkongers get 80 per cent discount,” says the sign outside the restaurant on Lockhart Road.

This restaurant in Causeway Bay is offering an 80 per cent discount in support of the pro-democracy protesters. Photo: Emily Tsang

 

1.55pm: Protester Esmond Lam Chun-him, 18, admits he wants the movement to end as soon as possible but whether he leaves the Mong Kok site depends on the outcome of talks between students and the government, the first of which will begin on Friday.

“We can’t just sit here forever. Somebody has to initiate dialogue with the government,” the Year One civil engineering student at Polytechnic University says.

Although Lam is camped in Mong Kok – where protesters have stressed they are an autonomous protest and different from Occupy Central – he says he considers the Federation of Students the leaders of the movement.

“I’m looking for something concrete like the promise of civil nominations. We should forget about impractical stuff like making the police apologise,” he says

Lam says if the talks are successful he will get up and leave voluntarily but if not, he will stay and even prepare for possible clearance by police.

“I will probably resist but I am prepared to be arrested if necessary,” he says.

Some 20 volunteers remain at Occupy Mong Kok. One of then, Prince Tse, 28, says they are prepared to leave if talks are successful.

“If the talks work out, there’s no need to be here. If they don’t, then we’ll stay,” Tse says.

“Whether Leung Chun-ying steps down is no longer important. We are looking for a change in the political system.”

Asked what the arrangements would be if police clear the place out, Tse says the elderly and children will be asked to leave first. Those who want to stay can do. “Adults can make up their own minds,” he says.

1.45pm: Here’s a selection of views from the remaining protesters in Causeway Bay …

“I don’t have much of an opinion on the talks. At least the government’s not jerking the protesters around; that’s already good news to me.”

Lau Ka-man, 24, customer service representative, been in Causeway Bay for the past eight days

“I think the government is toying with the students. They’re not planning to talk about the key issues that can resolve the Occupy situation. Now, I acknowledge that it’s going to be hard for the [National] People’s Congress to retract its own decision; they want to save face for one thing. I’m just an ordinary citizen, but why not think about letting people vote to decide who gets on the nominating committee? If the government doesn’t talk about universal suffrage with students, then it’s just wasting time.”

Cheung Ka-ling, 56, housewife, been coming to Causeway Bay every morning since Monday, except on weekends

“The whole movement is about universal suffrage and democracy, but in the end we’re part of China so Beijing will always have a say. But why not expand the nominating committee so more than half are elected by Hongkongers, so we can choose people who can speak for us and not Beijing?”

Tsang Siu-Chung, 20, programme organiser for social welfare, protesting since last Monday

1.35pm: Two parents, who don’t want be named, distribute leaflets in the occupied area near the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay.

The message, written in Chinese, says that there are some 60,259 children living in Central, Western District and Wan Chai. The protesters are blocking some of them from going to school, and school buses are taking about an hour to do a trip that normally takes only 15 minutes, says the man handing out the leaflets.

“There’s only a small crowd here, why can’t they move to another public area, like Tamar Park?” he asks.

The message ends with a request: “Don’t use our kids as bargaining chips!”

1.25pm: These photos just in from the main protest site near government headquarters in Admiralty …

Pro-democracy messages stuck to a wall near government headquarters in Admiralty. Photo: David Wong

The Umbrella movement continues as protests stretch into an 11th day. Photo: David Wong

What appears to be a snorkel mask rests on a fence near government headquarters in Admiralty. Photo: David Wong

1.15pm

1.15pm: Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, former leader of the Hong Kong Catholic Church urges protesters to leave Occupy sit-ins. He says that the police’s use of tear gas has given protesters victory over the government and it is now time they left.

“The government admitted failure by using violence. Is it possible to hold sensible discussion with a government that is unreasonable?” Zen writes in his blog, posted on his Facebook page and on the website of the Hong Kong Diocesan’s audio-visual centre today.

“Yes, you can stand for now. But for how much longer are you prepared to stand? For an indefinite time?”

Zen says withdrawing from the protest sites now would help members of the Umbrella movement keep their strength and allow them to prepare their next moves in the long-term fight for democracy.

“The government wants things to drag on. We must not be trapped by its tricks. Public opinion remains on our side. We should not let the public pay too much,” he says.

“It is time to let students go back to school, let ordinary people go back to work.”

Zen says protesters are in an unfavourable position compared to their opponents.

“We are exposed in sunlight while the enemy is hidden in the dark. We are non-violent,” he says.

“The longer it drags on, the more unfavourable to us it will be.”

The cardinal cites the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown as an example to warn that late withdrawal could lead to tragedy:

“Youngsters at Tiananmen had decided to retreat. But some newcomers from other provinces said: ‘We just arrived and you are saying it’s over?’ The outcome was the loss of many lives.”

1.05pm: Here’s Harry’s View on the protests from today’s edition of the Post:

Harry’s View. Photo: SCMP Pictures

 

1pm: German Consul-General Nikolaus Graf Lambsdorff praises the youth of Hong Kong for their enthusiasm, after an event held last night to celebrate the 24th anniversary of the reunification of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall – attended by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam.

“For all of us the last few days were exciting and thrilling,” Lambsdorff says, according to a copy of his speech, made in German, published on the consulate’s website today.

“It is not for me to publicly judge political developments in Hong Kong. But especially in the light of our own recent German history, I believe that Hong Kong can be proud of its youth. I am sure that the efforts to make Hong Kong more democratic will be good for Hong Kong politically, but also economically.”

A statement on the German consulate’s website warns citizens in the city to “avoid the places of assembly and to closely follow the updated situation in the media” as it cannot “be ruled out that the protests escalate again.”

The Post revealed last week how the Foreign Ministry pressured consuls general in the city to avoid the protests and encourage their citizens to do so as well.

READ: China warns foreign diplomats in Hong Kong to ‘stay away’ from Occupy Central

12.45pm: The Chinese ambassador to Canada hits back against the Canadian government’s support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, stressing that “stability is a must”.

Envoy Luo Zhaohui, speaking to businesspeople in Toronto, is quoted by The Globe and Mail today as saying stability is crucial for China’s “deepening economic reform”, adding “we have to abide by the law”.

Relations between Canada and China have been frayed by allegations of espionage, Beijing’s human rights record and the Canadian government’s vow to press Beijing on allowing the Hong Kong civil disobedience movement to continue. Despite the tensions, Luo stresses both countries should strengthen trade.

“I’m quite optimistic the issue [of Occupy protests] will be resolved peacefully. Sometimes there are … some problems that block bilateral relations,” Luo said, according to the report.

12.30pm: Everybody is kung fu fighting in Causeway Bay. Well, not everybody, but a group of street performers are taking advantage of the empty space, drumming and performing a kung fu demonstration.

They’ve drawn scattered applause and a small crowd of around 50 onlookers.

After the performance, drummer Miu Kei-yuk of Oriental Martial Arts tells onlookers that he came to the site with friends last Thursday, when they attempted to pull down the barricades. He says a lot of his friends have developed anxiety disorders and depression because they’ve been worried about the affect of the protests on their lives.

Everybody was kung fu fighting … Photo: Alan Yu

He says he’s politically neutral, but Taoists and Confucians believe in yin and yang, so there are no absolute rights and wrongs. He says everyone should stand in the grey areas while assessing a situation.

Miu says he hopes people won’t mind his intrusion. He claims his group has helped teenagers back onto the right path after the government deemed them hopeless and sent them to him. He says he hopes people will take down the barricades and reopen the streets, if they think there’s even an ounce of sense in what he’s saying.

He kneels down in front of the crowd and kowtows after this. He admits that as a kung fu practitioner, he was a little impulsive when he and his friends tried to take down the barricades.

… Those kicks were fast as lightning. Photo: Alan Yu

12.25pm: Occupy Mong Kok witnesses its first street dispute of the day, after several hours of peace and quiet.

What began as a relatively civil debate about the Communist Party’s creeping influence on Hong Kong ends with an elderly man being escorted away by police after he began hurling profanities at the protesters.

The man says he is “anti-Occupy Central” as he tells protesters to go to the city’s financial hub to make their views known.

One protester replies that they too, are against Occupy Central: “This is Occupy Mong Kok! Those against Occupy Central can leave! We have nothing to do with them.”

As the elderly man becomes more aggressive, police pull him away as the protesters sing the now familiar refrain of the happy birthday song.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1611911/live-remaining-occupy-protesters-wary-government-dialogue-set-friday

Hong Kong protests: Crowds thin dramatically; Government waits for all to give up — Talks scheduled

October 8, 2014

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HONG KONG SCHOLARISM FEDERATION OF STUDENTS

Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism members speak during the protest at Tamar Park outside of the Hong Kong Government Building on August 31, 2014 in Hong Kong, China. | Anthony Kwan via Getty Images

Protesters want wider say in the inaugural 2017 elections for Hong Kong’s top official

The Associated Press

Crowds of protesters who filled Hong Kong’s streets with demands for more democracy thinned dramatically Tuesday after student leaders and the government agreed to hold talks in the increasingly frustrated city.

Just a couple of days after tens of thousands of demonstrators thronged the city’s streets, only a few hundred protesters were scattered across the three main protest areas for much of the day. But the six-lane highway that cuts through the heart of Hong Kong’s business district remained blocked by demonstrators, once again snarling traffic and angering many commuters.

Hong Kong Democracy Protest

Office workers view the pro-democracy student protesters’ encampments in occupied areas surrounding the government complex in Hong Kong on Tuesday. (Wally Santana/Associated Press)

One young protester sleepily brushed his teeth as rush hour began, while a sleeping demonstrator leaned back in a nylon chair nearby, his mouth open and his eyeglasses askew.

Despite the dwindling numbers of activists on the streets, protest leaders insisted the movement was far from defeated, and vowed to walk away from negotiations if the police used force to clear away the remaining demonstrators.

Michael Leung, 14, wearing his school uniform and doing homework on the highway, said he had come to the protest zone on three days after school.

“You see now the number of people is decreasing because there has been no big action from the government and the police,” he said. “But I think if the government or police want to clear this area, then the people will come out again.”

At the territory’s government headquarters, which had been blocked by protesters for a week, only a half dozen or so student protesters remained at the barricades. Eight policemen stood nearby, chatting among themselves.

On Tuesday night, a dozen policemen ringed a small group of pro-Beijing demonstrators as they marched near the protesters.

“It is true democracy we’re looking for!” one of the demonstrators cried into portable loudspeaker, as the group shouted her down.

Late Monday, Lau Kong-wah, the territory’s undersecretary of constitutional affairs, said the government and students had agreed on terms for talks, saying they would enter discussions on an equal footing. Lester Shum, a leader of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, confirmed the agreement, but said they had not discussed or reached a consensus on the agenda. A date for the meeting had not been set.

The dueling questions now are how long the demonstrators are willing to continue their protests — and how long until the government removes them.

“We are safe (from a crackdown) for the moment,” said Joseph Cheng, a specialist in Chinese politics at the City University of Hong Kong who has deep ties to the city’s pro-democracy movement. “Now that there are negotiations going on — or at least negotiations to discuss negotiations — we expect that the police will not clear the protesters for a few days.”

Unlikely to agree

But with the authorities unlikely to agree to the protesters’ immediate demands, including the resignation of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, any talks could quickly collapse.

“The real test is what happens when the negotiations break down,” said Cheng.

Like many protest leaders, Cheng suspects the government is purposefully slowing discussions to drive a wedge between the activists and residents increasingly anxious for the protests to end.

People “are now beginning to say: ‘Hey, we want to make a living. You are disturbing my daily life,”‘ he said.

The protesters are demanding a wider say in the inaugural 2017 elections for Hong Kong’s top official, known as the chief executive, than China’s central government is willing to give them. Beijing, which controls Hong Kong but allows far more liberty here than on the mainland, insists that all candidates be screened by a committee of mostly pro-China tycoons and other elites, raising fears of a tightening grip by Communist leaders.

‘Sincere dialogue’

A police spokesman warned Tuesday that “the chance of further confrontations is increasing” in the city’s Mong Kok district, where mobs tried to drive away protesters over the weekend. The protesters “have occupied the road illegally for many days,” said police spokesman Steve Hui, adding that authorities would “take action at the appropriate time.”

Earlier crackdowns, though, have backfired on the government. When police fired tear gas and pepper spray on unarmed demonstrators on Sept. 28, it caused an upsurge in support for the protesters and brought tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents into the streets.

On Monday, Leung, the city’s chief executive, said in a TV address that the government would seek “a sincere dialogue on political reform.”

At the same time, he urged the end to the blockade of the streets and issued veiled warnings that the authorities would eventually need to “restore social order.”

“I hope that the protesters gathering on the roads, especially students and young people, could think this over: While fighting for a better future and democracy for Hong Kong by way of civil disobedience, should you also consider the prolonged disruption caused to the general public?” he said.

Primary schools in districts affected by the protests reopened Tuesday, a day after high school classes resumed. Civil servants returned to work after protesters cleared the area outside the city government headquarters, a focal point of the demonstrations that began Sept. 26. But the city’s legislature, located in the same complex, postponed two meetings on Tuesday.

***********************

Hong Kong protests: Talks scheduled as crowds shrink and frustration rises

By Jethro Mullen and Andrew Stevens, CNN
updated 10:48 PM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
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Hong Kong (CNN) — After more than a week of stalemate, student leaders and the government have agreed to a framework for formal talks after protesters around the government headquarters gave civil servants better access to the building.

Talks are scheduled between the government and protest leaders at 4 p.m. local time Friday (4 a.m. Friday ET), and media coverage will be allowed. The government’s number two official, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, will be the principal negotiator from the government side.

Embattled Chief Executive C.Y. Leung released a video statement saying students should consider the inconveniences to the general public and insisted the students clear the vehicle entrances to the government complex. He also advised students to leave the protest site in Mong Kok.

The news of official talks comes as a dwindling number of pro-democracy demonstrators continue to cling on to their protest sites in key areas of the tightly packed city. As their numbers wane, so does patience of some of their fellow citizens.

“At first, I supported them, but then I started to think they are being selfish because they block the roads — and that’s wrong,” said Virginia Lai, who has sold newspapers from a stall in the busy district of Mong Kok for 45 years.

Lai says her business is down 30% and getting worse. The student-led demonstrators are camped out at a major intersection in the neighborhood, which witnessed violent clashes between protesters and their opponents over the weekend.

A CNN team at the main protest point in the Admiralty area also witnessed friction Tuesday night as a handful of protesters wearing blue ribbons — indicating an anti-Occupy stance — were mobbed by hundreds of Occupy student protesters.

The protesters have blocked several main highways in the city for more than a week as they seek to change a decision by China’s ruling Communist Party on how the next election for Hong Kong’s top leader will work.

At their peak, the demonstrations brought tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents together in spectacular fashion, covering large areas of the semiautonomous territory’s central business district in a sea of people.

‘Disrupting my life’

But that was last week, when two back-to-back public holidays put work and classes on hold for a lot of people.

As activity has cranked back up in the financial and commercial hub in recent days, crowds at the protest sites have thinned significantly and signs of discontent among other residents have spread.

“I am very angry because this movement is disrupting my life,” said Polly Lau, an elderly woman who has lived in Mong Kok all her life. “I think there will be a rebellion actually, a rebellion of the other 7 million people in Hong Kong against them.”

The protests have blocked bus and tram routes, worsening traffic and putting more strain on the city’s rail network. Some businesses, offices and schools have closed temporarily.

In Tuesday’s altercation in Admiralty, a known pro-Beijing activist, Lee See Yin, attempted to address crowds from street level through a megaphone and was surrounded by an angry crowd of hundreds of student protesters who began screaming to drown her out.

She insisted that she was also from Hong Kong and had a right to be heard, asking the crowds, “Is this real democracy?”

The altercation, which involved verbal assault but no apparent physical abuse, lasted 10 to 15 minutes.

Eventually, half a dozen police came over and formed a ring around the handful of anti-Occupy protesters, who then left the area escorted by the officers.

On Sunday, a group of about 30 taxi drivers carried out their own protest to express their frustration with the pro-democracy sit-ins, which they said were affecting their livelihoods, according to local broadcaster RTHK.

But the protest movement also commands a lot of sympathy among residents of the city, especially after police used tear gas and pepper spray in a failed effort to disperse demonstrators on September 28 — tactics seen by many as overly harsh.

Is it safe to travel to Hong Kong?

Is it ‘deal time’?

Some commentators are arguing that now is a good moment for demonstrators to cash in their chips before they lose too much support.

“The longer this drags on, the more student activists risk looking to average Hongkongers like irritants,” wrote William Pesek, an Asia-Pacific columnist for Bloomberg View, suggesting it’s now “deal time for Hong Kong’s students.”

“Why not parlay what’s been achieved so far into meaningful concessions from the government?” Pesek said.

His suggestion follows calls from some prominent figures, including the heads of local universities, for students to leave the protest sites for their own safety. Other observers have noted that the demonstrators have succeeded in putting the democracy issue back on the agenda.

But it remains uncertain what kind of deal the protesters might be able to reach with the government. One of the movement’s demands has been the resignation of Hong Kong’s top leader, Chief Executive C.Y. Leung.

Increasing fatigue

Some demonstrators have said they are running out of steam after enduring long days and nights camped out on the asphalt amid stifling heat and torrential downpours.

“I’m tired, but I think we have to stay a while longer,” said Kristine Wu, a student who has been at the main protest site on Hong Kong Island for a week.

Are you there? Share images, if you can safely

‘We really have to stand strong’

Other protesters among the depleted crowd still holding firm at the site Tuesday expressed similar determination to stay put until some kind of result was achieved.

“We really have to stand strong,” said Luk Kam Yan, a student who had been protesting for eight days. “There’s been a lot of rumors about clearing out, but I feel if we stay here, we still have a bit of bargaining power.”

Student leaders have said they will continue the protest until they have productive talks with the government and expressed optimism that their supporters will stick with them.

“Many protesters need rest after nine days of occupation,” Lester Shum, the deputy secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said Monday. “I don’t believe they are already giving up. When they have recovered, they will return.”

But the government appears content to watch the demonstrators’ numbers dwindle as negotiations drag on.

CNN’s Laura Smith-Spark, Esther Pang, Pamela Boykoff, Felicia Wong, Will Ripley, Tim Schwarz, Jane Sit, Nathan Mauger and Karen Smith contributed to this report.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/07/world/asia/china-hong-kong-protests/

Pro-Russian Separatists in Ukraine Reject Putin’s Call to Delay Vote

May 8, 2014

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A man prepares ballots and flyers for a planned referendum seeking greater autonomy from the central government in Kiev, scheduled for May 11, in a building occupied by pro-Russian protesters on Wednesday.

By James Marson
The Wall Street Journal

DONETSK, Ukraine—The main pro-Russian separatist groups in eastern Ukraine decided on Thursday to go ahead with a referendum on secession set for Sunday, defying an appeal from Russian President Vladimir Putin a day earlier to postpone the vote to facilitate dialogue with the government in Kiev.

European capitals had reacted cautiously to the latest initiative from the Kremlin, which came after Mr. Putin met in Moscow on Wednesday with Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, who is also chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The separatist decision threw into further doubt any hopes of easing tensions sparked by his comments, a change of tone that came after weeks of escalation in the region.

In a move likely to add to the unease, Mr. Putin supervised in Moscow what he said in televised comments were previously planned military exercises. Based on official descriptions, the maneuvers were unusually large, stretching across Russia. They included strategic bombers and the launch of ballistic missiles, officials said, in a simulation of a massive retaliation against an enemy after attack.

Speaking at the command center, Mr. Putin didn’t comment on the separatists’ decisions but said Russia “intends to act with those agreements” reached at his meeting with Burkhalter.

Organizers of the independence referendum say they aim to create a new state called Novorossiya, including the Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk regions, if the vote passes. Kiev and Western capitals have called the referendum illegal and illegitimate.

“The vote was 100% against,” said Denis Pushilin, head of the self-appointed government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, after a session of its 78-member governing council. “We are grateful for President Putin’s suggestion but we reflect the voice of the people,” he told reporters.

The Russian RIA-Novosti news agency said separatists in Luhansk also decided to go ahead with the referendum, according to the Press Center of the Army of the Southeast, a separatist group

In Kiev, meanwhile, top officials rejected Moscow’s demands that the government end its military operation and negotiate with the pro-Moscow activists.

Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Kiev of massing 15,000 troops on the border with Russia. There was no immediate response to that claim from Kiev, which has struggled to rebuild its weakened military in the current crisis.

Mr. Burkhalter said the OSCE has drafted a road map for reducing tensions, including a cease-fire, political dialogue and elections. Details of that plan haven’t yet been released and officials in Kiev reacted skeptically, complaining that Ukraine had been left out of the talks in Moscow.

Mr. Putin’s comments Wednesday were the first apparent sign of the Kremlin trying to pull the conflict back from the brink of a partition of Ukraine. But officials in Washington were immediately critical of the initiative, saying it didn’t go far enough.

In addition to calling on separatists to delay the referendum—a vote Kiev and the West have denounced as illegal—Mr. Putin softened his criticism of the presidential elections Kiev has set for May 25.

He also said Russia had pulled back troops from Ukraine’s border that had been deployed there after Kiev began its military operation against the separatists. But NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday the alliance had seen no indication of that.

In Kiev, officials said the military operation against separatists would continue even if the referendum is postponed. Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said the troops are “defending the lives and health of citizens in an antiterrorist operation being conducted against terrorists, saboteurs and other criminals who kill, torture and kidnap our people.”

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said two separatist fighters had been killed overnight in the city of Slovyansk, the rebel fighters’ center, after they fired on troops at a government checkpoint. There was no immediate confirmation from the separatist side.

Security Chief Andriy Paribiy said that unidentified armed men had attacked border posts in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions overnight along the frontier with Russia. The attacks came from the Russian side, he said. There was no immediate reaction from Moscow to his claim.

Some in Donetsk were dismayed by Mr. Putin’s call, which they called a betrayal, but others admitted the vote is unlikely to succeed given the fighting and lack of broad public support. Separatist leaders flatly rejected calls they lay down their arms, however.

“It’s hard to talk about putting down arms and any talks because too many people have died,” separatist leader Miroslav Rudenko told Interfax. Dozens have been killed in recent days in fighting between separatists and Ukrainian forces. Mr. Rudenko also was skeptical about the prospects for the May 25 presidential vote in his Donetsk region. “I don’t see any chance to conduct these elections because there are no people among the candidates who could represent the [Donetsk] region and the southeast as a whole,” he said.

Pavel Gubarev, the self-appointed leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, who was released from police custody Wednesday in a prisoner swap for kidnapped security agents, said his group would continue taking hostages to exchange in the event Kiev persists in arresting separatist leaders.

In Luhansk, separatist activists commandeered a World War II-era tank that had been restored for Victory Day parades and drove it to a security-service building occupied by separatists, Interfax reported.

Despite the secessionist moves, a poll released Thursday by Pew Researchfound that a majority of Ukrainians want the country to remain a single, unified state. In the more pro-Europe west of the country, 93% of those surveyed said they wanted to maintain Ukraine’s current borders, compared with 70% of those polled in the east. Overall, 77% of Ukrainians surveyed want Ukraine to remain a unified country. Only 14% of those polled said they think regions should be permitted to secede if they so desire.

The Pew poll also showed the large amount of discontent with the new powers in Kiev. Excluding Crimea, 49% of Ukrainians polled said the new authorities have influenced the country negatively, as opposed to 41% who approved of the new government’s actions. The discontent was pronounced in the country’s east, where 67% of people polled said the Kiev authorities have negatively influenced the country.

–Gregory L. White contributed to this article.

Write to James Marson at james.marson@wsj.com

Putin Shifts Tone, Calls For Delay in Ukraine Election

May 8, 2014

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Swiss President Didier Burkhalter and Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 7, 2014.  Burkhalter is leading negotiations with Russia as chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

By , and Washington Post

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to take steps Wednesday to pull Ukraine back from an escalating cycle of violence, asking pro-Russian separatists in the country to postpone a Sunday referendum on independence and indicating that he may be willing to recognize a national election later this month.The statements marked a significant shift in tone from the hard line that Putin and other top Russian officials have taken for months toward the acting government in Kiev, which took power after pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych fled in February in the face of popular protests.

But key questions remained about whether Putin’s efforts would actually rein in violence, including whether Russia retained control over the bands of armed separatists who have taken over cities across eastern Ukraine and whether his proposals were palatable to the Ukrainians.

“All of us are interested in settling this crisis, in settling it as soon as possible, accounting for the interests of all Ukrainian citizens irrespective of their place of residence,” Putin said, speaking in Moscow alongside Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, who is leading negotiations as chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Putin said that putting off the referendum on whether to establish independence from Kiev would help create the “necessary conditions of dialogue” with the acting central government.

Putin’s statements came after a week of escalating violence as Ukrainian authorities attempted to regain control over the east, largely without success. Many Ukrainians fear fresh violence on Victory Day, the annual May 9 holiday that holds deep significance for Russians because it marks the capitulation of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union during World War II.

Putin also expressed qualified support for Ukraine’s May 25 presidential election, a vote aimed at legitimizing a new government that would replace the current interim administration. Kremlin officials had previously said they would consider the election illegitimate if it were held in a climate of violence, while the United States and its allies had warned against delay or disruption.

The Obama administration offered a muted response to Putin’s remarks, emphasizing the need for actions in addition to words.

“We would certainly welcome a meaningful and transparent withdrawal” of Russian troops deployed along Ukraine’s border, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “To date, there has been no evidence that such a withdrawal has taken place.”

Ukraine had never recognized the planned referendum as legitimate, and officials in Kiev reacted dismissively to Putin’s move. Even before Putin’s request for a delay, the referendum’s success had been in doubt, with each city organizing its own balloting and popular enthusiasm limited at best.

The separatists called the referendum to decide whether the eastern region of Ukraine, the country’s industrial heartland, should declare independence and become the sovereign republic of Novorossiya, the czarist-era name for part of the area.

It was not immediately clear whether the separatists would heed Putin’s request for a postponement. According to Reuters, Denis Pushilin, a separatist leader in Donetsk, said, “We have the utmost respect for President Putin. If he considers that necessary, we will of course discuss it.’’

Federalization push

Apart from the Sunday vote, the Kremlin has pushed for a version of federalization in Ukraine that would keep eastern Ukraine, with its large ethnic Russian population, within Russia’s orbit. Ukrainian leaders in Kiev have said they would not agree to such a move, which would delegate authority over law enforcement and foreign policy to the country’s regions.

Putin said a presidential election would be “a movement in the right direction, but only if all citizens of Ukraine understand that their rights are guaranteed.’’

The Russian leader also said Wednesday that he had pulled back some forces from Ukraine’s borders. But the claim was immediately contradicted by U.S. and NATO officials, who said they had “seen no change” in Russian troops in the region.

“We would know,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven C. Warren told reporters. Senior Russian defense officials also said late last month that they were pulling troops back but did not appear to do so, Western officials said.

Andriy Parubiy, who leads Ukraine’s equivalent of the National Security Council, said Putin’s remarks should be seen as confirmation that the Kremlin has been stoking the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine all along. If Putin was making a concession, Parubiy said, it was because of the military campaign that Ukrainian forces have launched in recent days to regain control in the east.

“This is also evidence of the fact that the Ukrainian government is going in the right direction and successfully protecting its national interests,” Parubiy said through an interpreter during an interview at his office in Kiev on Wednesday.

Parubiy said he had just met with local separatist leaders in the eastern regional capitals of Donetsk and Luhansk, armed with a presidential decree of amnesty for those willing to lay down their arms. He said the two sides could negotiate a satisfactory solution on autonomy and other issues without Russia’s interference.

Avoiding escalation

Analysts said Wednesday that Putin may also have been searching for a way to avoid having to send in troops if the situation escalated further. Doing so would almost certainly have resulted in Ukrainian forces fighting back — unlike Putin’s swift move in March to annex the Crimean Peninsula — and could have quickly diminished his popularity at home, which has risen to vertiginous heights during his handling of the crisis.

President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said last week that any attempt to disrupt the May 25 election would trigger broad sectoral economic sanctions against Russia.

Burkhalter said the OSCE would suggest a road map in Moscow for Ukraine that would include a cease-fire, a de-escalation of tensions, dialogue and elections. A proposal that he outlined Tuesday ahead of the meeting with Putin offered a nonbinding poll to be held in conjunction with the elections that would sample citizens’ attitudes about how much control they want the central government in Kiev to have over its far-flung regions.

Speaking in Kiev before Putin made his surprise call for postponement of the separatist referendum, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters that a failure to hold the May 25 election as scheduled would be “a terrible blow for democracy.”

In interviews in the eastern city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces battled Wednesday with separatists, detaining dozens but leaving a motley crew of them to occupy the city council building, residents said they wished for a return to peace and normalcy, and most welcomed Putin’s statement.

“I was born in Voronezh in Russia, and I have relatives there, but nobody should interfere in the internal affairs of another country,’’ said a shopkeeper who gave her name only as Anna. She held up her hand and said “Ukraine.” She did not want to be fully identified for fear of retaliation.

Kunkle reported from Kiev and Denyer reported from Mariupol. Alex Ryabchyn in Donetsk and Karen DeYoung and Ernesto Londoño in Washington contributed to this report.

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