Hong Kong students fine-tune plan to take democracy call direct to Beijing

Hong Kong students fine-tune plan to take democracy call direct to Beijing
(Centre-R) Benny Tai of prominent pro-democracy group Occupy Central, Hong Kong student leaders Alex Chow, Joshua Wong, Alan Leong of the Civic Party and an unidentified activist attend a press conference at the pro-democracy protesters camp site in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on October 26, 2014

HONG KONG - Students calling for full democracy for Chinese-ruled Hong Kong are hoping to take their protest to Communist Party rulers in Beijing and are expected to announce details of their new battle plan on Thursday.

The move signals a shift in the focus of the protests in the former British colony away from the Hong Kong government which has said it has limited room for manoeuvre.

But China is highly unlikely to allow any known pro-democracy activists into Beijing, especially if the trip coincides with this weekend's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Beijing. "I think one of the ways we can solve this problem is to go to Beijing personally and have a direct dialogue with Beijing officials on this matter since the (Hong Kong) government claims that all decisions have to be passed up to the NPC," Alex Chow, leader of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), said last week, referring to China's parliament, the National People's Congress.

The protesters blocked key roads leading into three of Hong Kong's most economically and politically important districts for weeks. The campaign drew well over 100,000 at its peak and hundreds remain camped out at the main protest site in Admiralty, home to government offices and next to the main financial district.

The HKFS has not yet said whether its planned trip was to coincide with APEC, which would mean, if allowed, it would take place in front of an audience of world leaders.

Another student leader, Nathan Law, said details would be revealed on Thursday.

China has ruled Hong Kong since 1997 through a "one country, two systems" formula which allows wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.

The protesters are demanding fully-democratic elections for the city's next chief executive in 2017, not the vote between pre-screened candidates that Beijing has said it will allow.

A survey by Hong Kong University's Public Opinion Programme on Tuesday showed that the HKFS has become the most popular political group in the city.

But pro-Beijing groups have increasingly criticised the impact the protests are having on business. Data on business conditions in the city's private sector economy released in the HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) show the strongest pace of deterioration in October in three years.

The chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Tam Yiu-chung, said on Tuesday he would help convey the students' message to Beijing if they stopped occupying key roads, broadcaster RTHK reported.

Tam was also quoted as saying a trip by the students to Beijing during the APEC meeting would not be successful.

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