On one side of the table sat the idealistic and earnest young students in jeans and black T-shirts, knapsacks by their sides. Facing them was the line-up of seasoned government officials in their formal suits.

In an unprecedented two-hour televised meeting, the students passionately explained why they had taken to the streets for more than three weeks to fight for greater democracy in the specially-run Chinese region. The officials responded that the students' demands were not legally feasible.

The discussion yielded scant progress, and protesters remained camped out in three areas Wednesday.

The meeting also highlights the vast generational and political divide that needs to be bridged to end Hong Kong's biggest political crisis since China took control of the city 17 years ago.