Thousands of Hong Kong protesters listened raptly from the streets on Tuesday as student leaders debated their call for full democracy for the Chinese-run city with government leaders to try end a weeks-long occupation of major traffic arteries.
But, as had been widely expected, there was no breakthrough. Student leaders had yet to decide whether or not to hold a second round.
Beijing-backed city leader Leung Chun-ying had earlier hinted at a procedural concession in choosing the next leader, but it fell well short of what the student-led protesters have been demanding.
Three large screens and projectors were set up at the tent-strewn main protest site on a thorough fare in the Admiralty district, next to the government offices, with periodic cheering for remarks by student leaders and jeering when Chief Secretary Carrie Lam spoke during the dialogue.
"(Officials) in the Hong Kong government can now decide whether to be democratic heroes or historical villains ... I believe every Hong Kong citizen is waiting to see," student leader Alex Chow said.
Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that allows it wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms and specifies universal suffrage as an ultimate goal. But Beijing is wary about copycat demands for reform on the mainland eroding one party rule.
Communist Party rulers in Beijing in August offered Hong Kong people the chance to vote for their own leader in 2017, but said only two to three candidates could run after getting majority backing from a 1,200-person nominating committee, which is widely expected to be stacked with Beijing loyalists.
The protesters decry this as "fake" Chinese-style democracy and say they won't leave the streets unless Beijing allows open nominations.