Hong Kong protesters suggest talks with Beijing

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Student democracy activists who have occupied Hong Kong streets for a month suggested Tuesday that direct negotiations with senior Chinese Communist Party officials could be a way to end their standoff with the local government.

The protest leaders said they want the Hong Kong government to convey their demands for greater democracy to Beijing. They issued an open letter to Hong Kong's No. 2 official after the students and the government held talks last week that were mostly fruitless.

One of the student protest leaders, Alex Chow, said the Hong Kong government should ask Chinese Premier Li Keqiang "to have dialogue with the students and Hong Kong people directly, so that Hong Kong people and students can express their views."

It's unclear how the request would be received, given that Beijing officials have called the street protests illegal and repeatedly blamed unspecified foreign forces for instigating them.

The student leaders are struggling to maintain momentum after aborting a weekend street referendum intended to shore up support. Organizers said they scrapped the vote because they hadn't adequately consulted with the public.

Protesters have been occupying main streets in three neighborhoods across Hong Kong since Sep. 28, when police unleashed tear gas in a failed attempt to disperse thousands of them trying to rally outside government headquarters.

Beijing has decreed that a committee will screen candidates for inaugural 2017 direct elections to choose the semiautonomous Chinese city's leader, angering many who call it fake democracy. Protesters want Hong Kongers to be able to name candidates of their own choosing.

Protesters marked a full month of their movement with an evening rally that began with the unfurling of umbrellas and a moment of silence that lasted 87 seconds -- one for every canister of tear gas fired by police.