Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong to vote on government talks offers

Hong Kong democracy activists will hold a two-day referendum starting Sunday to gauge protesters' response to government proposals to end the monthlong street occupation.

Protest organizers said late Friday they would register public opinion at the main downtown protest site, where thousands remain camped out, and two other satellite protest zones.

Hong Kong's government has offered to submit a report to the central government noting the protesters' unhappiness with a Beijing-dictated plan to have a 1,200-person committee screen candidates for the city's top leader in the inaugural 2017 election.

Protesters say the committee is weighted toward the central government's preferences and should be scrapped or at least reformed to better represent the Asian financial capital of 7.2 million people.

Hong Kong officials have also offered to hold regular dialogue with protesters about democratic reforms if they end their occupation of three of the city's busiest areas.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the main organizers behind the protests, has already rejected the government offer but still called for the Sunday referendum.

Another organizer, Occupy Central, said the poll would ask two questions. One is on whether the government report should also include asking China's legislature to reconsider its August decision on the committee vetting candidates. The other is on whether the dialogue should also cover reforms to the local legislature.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the protests began, Tung Chee-hwa, the city's first chief executive after its 1997 transition from British to Chinese rule, said Friday that the protesters' demands were not realistic and that they should accept a longer timeline for electoral reforms.

"Students, I hope you listen to what this old man is saying," the 77-year-old said in a news conference. "It's time to go home."