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Religious leaders offer to mediate HK protest talks

Government claims it already has a mediator in place

Religious leaders offer to mediate HK protest talks

Published: October 16, 2014 07:20 AM GMT

Updated: October 15, 2014 08:44 PM GMT

Religious leaders in Hong Kong say they are willing to mediate talks between pro-democracy protesters and the government following further reports of violence as police continued to try to disperse demonstrators.

“We are willing to listen to opinions of both sides, try to find a basis for common dialogue in order to help both sides to start dialogue and to achieve peace,” they said in a statement late Wednesday.

As Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist and Muslim leaders met earlier on Wednesday, the government announced there was already a “well-respected” mediator in place without revealing the person’s identity.

However, Hong Kong’s religious leaders said they could offer an independent mediating role to bridge the gap between protest leaders and the government, which remains beholden to Beijing on the divisive question of democratic reforms scheduled for 2017.

The religious leaders met the same day as a video reported on television news appeared to show seven plainclothes policemen beating a protester, the latest reported incident of harsh police tactics against rallies which have shrunk but persisted since last month.

The video prompted more than 200 people to surround police headquarters in Hong Kong.

“The situation is severe,” said Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-sheng, the Catholic representative in the absence of Cardinal John Tong who is attending the Synod on the Family in Rome.

“There is great risk and difficulties to be mediators at this point,” he added. “But isn’t that a role religious leaders should take up?”

The government has so far failed to respond to the offer made by Hong Kong’s religious community but was believed unlikely to agree given Beijing’s dislike of Western religions and the leading role Christians have played in pro-democracy rallies in recent weeks. Leading Catholic and Protestant figures including retired Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun have featured prominently. 

Hong Kong's embattled leader reopened his offer of talks with student leaders Thursday, a week after the government abruptly pulled out of discussions aimed at ending weeks of mass democracy rallies.

"Over the last few days, including this morning through third parties, we expressed a wish to the students that we would like to start a dialogue to discuss universal suffrage as soon as we can and hopefully within the following week," Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told reporters.


Additional reporting by AFP.



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