Hong Kong democracy protest leaders to fly to Beijing

Hong Kong democracy protest leaders said they will head to Beijing Saturday in hopes of bringing their demands for political reform to the Chinese authorities, but there are worries they will not be allowed into the country.

Protestors, spearheaded by the Hong Kong Federation of Students, have blocked key Hong Kong intersections for more than a month to press their demands for fully free elections for the city's next leader.

Fruitless talks with the Hong Kong government almost a month ago have led to an impasse and protest leaders plan to travel to Beijing to bypass the unpopular local administration altogether.

"The federation is going to Beijing as a last resort and is not challenging Beijing's authority and to harm the one country, two systems," it said in a statement released late Thursday.

The former British colony was handed back to China in 1997 under the "one country, two systems" principle which promises to maintain the city's social and economic systems until 2047.

But democracy activists say Hong Kong's freedoms have been steadily eroded under Chinese rule.

"We ... will only discuss two things which are political reform and the question of the one country, two systems," the federation said, adding that its secretary general Alex Chow along with two other core members would travel to the Chinese capital on Saturday afternoon.

"A few of us powerless students will not flinch in the face of a powerful authority," it said.

But there are worries that the trio will not make it into mainland China.

A member of another student activist group Scholarism was denied entry into the neighbouring Chinese city of Shenzhen late last week. The group said the volunteer was barred for taking part in "activities against national security".

"There is no way we can predict (if they will let us in)," Chow told reporters late Thursday.

"If we can't go into the country we will continue the struggle in Hong Kong" he said.

The city's number two official Carrie Lam on Tuesday said there was "no need" for student leaders to go to Beijing if they were only going to repeat previous demands.

The protesters are demanding civil nominations in leadership elections for the semi-autonomous city in 2017.

But Beijing has refused to back down on its insistence that candidates must be vetted by a loyalist committee, a decision critics say is designed to ensure the election of a pro-Beijing

stooge.

at/mtp