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Hong Kong Protesters Make Last-Ditch Effort To Negotiate


Several pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong plan to turn themselves in for arrest tomorrow for the illegal occupation of downtown streets. They are also urging students to retreat to avoid more violence. At the same time, other student protesters have gone on a hunger strike. It seems to be a last-ditch effort to press the government to hold talks over their demands. From Hong Kong, NPR's Frank Langfitt has more, starting with that decision by some to turn themselves in.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: The leaders of Occupy Central, one of the city's pro-democracy groups, say they'll surrender to police to show respect for the law and to show they aren't afraid. Benny Tai, one of the group's co-founders, spoke at a news conference.


BENNY TAI: Surrender is not an act of cowardice. It is the courage to act on a promise. To surrender is not to fail. It's a silent denunciation of a heartless government.

LANGFITT: Demonstrators have spent more than two months occupying city streets. They're demanding the right to free and open elections. But China's Communist Party, which calls the shots here, refuses to budge for fear of setting a Democratic precedent on Chinese soil. Today, Tai urged protesters to go home, in part, to avoid what could be a bloody battle with police.


TAI: We think that at this very critical moment that we should protect ourselves, and we should leave this very dangerous place.

LANGFITT: Tai has urged retreat before, but he repeated the plea after this week's clashes. Protesters tried to blockade government buildings to force officials to meet with them. Police responded with batons and pepper spray. More than 50 people, including police officers, were sent to hospitals and clinics for injuries.


TAI: Some of the frontline police officers, they seem to be out of control. And I just don't know how much more violence they will inflict on the occupiers.

LANGFITT: Over at the protest camp, though, few seem to be listening to Tai.

ASHLEY ZHEUNG: I don't think it's the right time to leave now.

LANGFITT: Ashley Zheung studies business at Chinese University of Hong Kong. She says the students shouldn't retreat with nothing to show for their efforts. Though she admits, the chance China's authoritarian regime will bend to Democratic demands is remote.

ZHEUNG: To be honest, I don't think they will change because they like to control the whole Hong Kong.

LANGFITT: Across the street, there is a crowd of people surrounding a tent. They're taking pictures. And inside is Joshua Wong. He's a key student protester, and he's on a hunger strike. I spoke with him earlier in the day.

How did you decide on a hunger strike - why?

JOSHUA WONG: It's the only way to give more pressure to the government other than upgrade action on the road.

LANGFITT: Wong is a skinny 18-year-old. He's wearing baggy jeans and a hoodie.

What do your parents think?

WONG: That they support me.

LANGFITT: Are they worried?

WONG: Yeah.

LANGFITT: How long do you think you can do this for?

WONG: I don't know.

LANGFITT: Nor does anyone seem to know just when the occupation will end. Earlier this week, Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung had ominous words for the protesters, telling them there's a limit to the city's tolerance. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Hong Kong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.
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