Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said on Thursday that he hopes the government can hold talks with students calling for democracy for the Chinese-controlled city as early as next week.
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He was speaking after more than two weeks of protests that have paralyzed parts of the city. The protesters are demanding free elections in 2017 and calling for Leung to step down, but Beijing insists on screening candidates first.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam cancelled talks with student leaders earlier this month, saying it was impossible to have constructive dialogue.
Police briefly scuffled with protesters camped out in Hong Kong's streets early Thursday, but held back from dismantling barricades erected by the activists pushing for greater democracy in the Chinese territory.
Public anger simmered over video showing a group of officers kicking a handcuffed protester on Wednesday morning as police charged the mostly student demonstrators occupying an underpass, using pepper spray and dragging dozens away.
Police used pepper spray again after midnight Thursday to push back crowds trying to occupy a road outside the government's headquarters. Police said two protesters were arrested, one for kicking a bottle at a private car and one for assaulting police, and three officers were injured.
Wednesday's police beating appeared to mark a change in mood for many protesters.
"I used to say at every rally that frontline police officers were just following orders. We shouldn't hurt frontline officers because we were angry or because we blamed them. Frontline officers were just doing their jobs," Joshua Wong, one of the protest leaders, said Wednesday evening at a rally at the main protest zone in Admiralty.
"But I won't say this again at future rallies," said the 18-year-old leader of Scholarism, one of three main groups leading the protests. "If they're just doing their work, why do they have to beat people?"