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Hong Kong leader says government is ready to start talks with student protesters

  • Morning commuters walk past makeshift barricades surrounding the pro-democracy student occupied streets of the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Police briefly scuffled with protesters camped out in Hong Kong's streets early Thursday, but held back from dismantling barricades erected by the activists pushing for greater democracy in the Chinese territory. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

    Morning commuters walk past makeshift barricades surrounding the pro-democracy student occupied streets of the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Police briefly scuffled with protesters camped out in Hong Kong's streets early Thursday, but held back from dismantling barricades erected by the activists pushing for greater democracy in the Chinese territory. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)  (The Associated Press)

  • Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying answers questions during a press conference in Hong Kong Government House, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Leung said officials have been negotiating with the students through middlemen in the past few days, and announced that authorities are keen to discuss details of democratic reform with them. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

    Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying answers questions during a press conference in Hong Kong Government House, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Leung said officials have been negotiating with the students through middlemen in the past few days, and announced that authorities are keen to discuss details of democratic reform with them. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)  (The Associated Press)

  • Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying answers questions during a press conference in Hong Kong Government House,Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Leung said officials have been negotiating with the students through middlemen in the past few days, and announced that authorities are keen to discuss details of democratic reform with them. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

    Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying answers questions during a press conference in Hong Kong Government House,Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Leung said officials have been negotiating with the students through middlemen in the past few days, and announced that authorities are keen to discuss details of democratic reform with them. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)  (The Associated Press)

Hong Kong's leader says he is ready to start talks as soon as next week with student leaders of the pro-democracy protests that have rocked the city for nearly three weeks.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Thursday officials have been negotiating with the students through middlemen in the past few days, and authorities are now ready to hold talks on democratic reform.

Authorities angered protesters when they called off a scheduled meeting with student leaders last week, saying talks were unlikely to produce constructive results.

The demonstrators have taken to the streets since Sept. 26 to oppose the Chinese central government's decision to screen candidates to run in the territory's first direct elections in 2017.