"The pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong is not at all optimistic [about the talks]," Joseph Cheng, a professor at City University of Hong Kong and a pro-democracy activist, told CNBC. "We do not expect that Beijing will respond to our demands."
Then why hold talks at all?
"They want to make their case," Biswas said.
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The protests are in their third week, shutting down parts of the central business district and the Mongkok neighborhood, with protesters defying tear gas, pepper gas and police baton charges to keep their barricades up.
The protesters' primary demand is the ability to select candidates for Hong Kong's chief executive post, rather than being forced to choose from a slate pre-determined by Beijing. Other demands have included the resignation of the unpopular current chief executive, CY Leung.
Cheng believes the best possible outcome of the talks is that the negotiations would continue and eventually broaden so that the Hong Kong government might be able to eventually convince the mainland to reconsider its decision on candidate nominations.
"This is the best scenario we can hope to achieve," Cheng said.
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Even that piecemeal, gradual outcome may not sit terribly well with the mainland.
"The government is also not keen to give the signal that this kind of protest system is the way to get reform," Biswas said. "Of even greater concern to the mainland government is that kind of outcome where protests are successful. That could trigger more protests on the mainland."