Hong Kong student protesters consider pulling up stakes

HONG KONG - One of the main student groups leading pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong said on Thursday it was considering ending more than two months of street demonstrations in the Chinese-controlled city.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students will decide in the next week whether to call on protesters to pull up stakes despite having failed to achieve their goal of ensuring open nominations in the election for the city's next leader in 2017.

"Some people wish to stay until the last minute and we respect that - but we cannot occupy without meaning," federation spokeswoman Yvonne Leung told local radio. "We will decide within the next week whether to stay or retreat."

The federation is one of several groups driving the protests in the former British colony.

Some members of another student group, Scholarism, have gone on hunger strike while leaders of the pro-democracy "Occupy Central" movement surrendered to police on Wednesday and called on students to retreat.

Student leaders held talks with Hong Kong officials in late October but failed to break the deadlock after the government said their demand for open nominations was impossible under the laws of the former British colony.

Last month, three student leaders were stopped from boarding a flight to Beijing to take their fight for greater democracy to the Chinese government. Airline authorities said their travel permits were invalid.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese Communist Party rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that gives it some autonomy from the mainland and a promise of eventual universal suffrage. Beijing has allowed a free vote in 2017, but insists on screening any candidates for city leader first.

The protests at their peak drew more than 100,000 into the streets but the numbers have now dwindled to just a few hundred.