Hong Kong Democracy Protesters to Vote on Staying in Streets

Image: A couple read inside their tent at the occupied area in Central, Hong Kong
A couple read inside their tent at the occupied area in Central, Hong Kong Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. As thousands of protesters block city streets demanding democratic reforms, the future of Hong Kong's exclusive — some would say purposefully opaque — election committee may prove key to defusing a high-stakes political standoff that has dragged on for nearly a month. Kin Cheung / AP

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Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong plan to hold a spot referendum Sunday on whether to stay in the streets or accept government offers for more talks and clear their protest camps. The three main groups behind the demonstrations said Thursday they would register public opinion at the main downtown protest site, where thousands remain camped out.

Hong Kong's government has offered to submit a report to the central government noting the protesters' unhappiness with a Beijing-dictated plan to have a 1,200-person committee pick candidates for the city's top leader in 2017 elections.

Hong Kong officials have also offered to hold regular dialogue with protesters about democratic reforms if they end their demonstrations, which have occupied streets in three of the city's busiest areas. The Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the main organizers behind the protests, has already rejected the government offer but still called for the Sunday referendum.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the protests began, Tung Chee-hwa, the city's first chief executive after its 1997 transition from British to Chinese rule, said Friday that the protesters' demands were not realistic and that they should accept a longer timeline for electoral reforms. "Students, I hope you listen to what this old man is saying," the 77-year-old said in a news conference. "It's time to go home."


- Reuters