NEW: Demonstrators let city workers enter central government offices
Key road near protest site reopens to traffic Monday morning
Student group says it has met with government representatives
Crowds remained on the streets early Monday, the day authorities had set as deadline
Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong ignored a deadline given by the government to disperse but allowed city workers to enter offices that had been blocked last week.
There were no apparent signs of any police action against the demonstrators early Monday, and the protest sites were populated but peaceful.
The protesters, many of them students, have blocked major highways in several key districts for the past week, challenging a decision by Beijing about how elections will work in the semiautonomous Chinese territory.
Hong Kong’s top leader, Chief Executive C.Y. Leung, had called on the demonstrators to disperse by Monday so that classes can resume at schools and government employees can go back to work at offices surrounded by protesters.
By Monday morning, a key road adjacent to Leung’s office reopened, although some 100 students remained camped out in front, according to a CNN staffer on the scene.
The protesters did not block the paths of Hong Kong government workers, allowing them to enter the Central Government Office Building through a corridor the students formed. Workers could be seen entering the building without incident.
The Hong Kong Federation of Students said at a press conference it had met with three representatives of the government to try to pave the way for future talks with Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, the territory’s second in command, to potentially defuse the crisis.
Lester Shum, the deputy secretary general for the students’ federation, told reporters that the two sides had failed to reach an agreement, but had agreed to continue the dialogue, which both parties said would be direct and mutually respectful.
He said the students laid out three conditions for future talks: that the dialogue must be ongoing, that the student leaders must be treated as equals, and that real political change must emerge from the talks.
He said the student protesters would continue the protest until they had a productive dialogue.
Addressing crowds at the protests, the federation’s secretary general, Alex Chow, repeatedly called on protesters to “add oil” – a phrase meaning “keep it up” – as he urged the movement to continue.
The federation also said in a statement that the government needed to take violence against the protesters seriously, and refrain from forcefully clearing the sites – or the occupation would “certainly continue.”
‘You can see we all want to stay’
There was confusion Sunday evening as to whether protesters would leave two major protest locations to consolidate their efforts at the main demonstration site in the city’s Admiralty district.
The protest group Occupy Central with Love and Peace said on its Twitter account that demonstrators had decided to withdraw from outside the chief executive’s office, a key point of tension with authorities.
But after the tweet was sent, crowd numbers at the site grew rapidly, according to CNN staff present, with protesters yelling that it was false information that they were leaving.