After more than three weeks of street protests, government officials in Hong Kong have agreed to hold talks with pro-democracy leaders—but Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying appears unwilling to budge on the subject of free elections in 2017, or even the merits of democracy in general. He warns that if the public could vote for just anybody, then the city's poor would come to "dominate" the political process. "If it's entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you'd be talking to the half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than US$1,800 a month," he tells the Wall Street Journal.
He adds that it makes sense for candidates to be nominated by a pro-Beijing committee, because it would spark a "constitutional crisis" if the city's voters chose a candidate Beijing found unacceptable. The talks with student leaders will be broadcast live on TV and shown on large screens at protest sites, but there are fears that the government's unyielding stance will only provoke larger and more violent protests. "I'm seriously worried about tonight," pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo tells AFP. "If this is just going to be a political show—where political animals form a political circus—people will think: 'Well, let's just take to the streets again.'"