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News Wrap: Hong Kong leader offers meeting while warning protesters not to storm buildings

In our news wrap Thursday, the leader of Hong Kong’s government defied calls for him to step down and warned protesters not to storm buildings. Gwen Ifill speaks with Demetri Sevastopulo on what’s driving young protestors. Also, as many as 100 people may have been exposed to the Ebola patient in Dallas, according to health officials in Texas.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    The leader of Hong Kong's government defied calls that he step down today and he put protesters on notice to stay away from key sites. But the pro-democracy crowds showed no sign they'd be cowed.

    Lucy Watson of Independent Television News spent the day among the protesters, and filed this report.

  • LUCY WATSON:

    There were moments of action and confusion, with emotions overrunning. How could they keep these streets under their control? It's authority vs. youth, weapons against toys. And the tension is mounting.

  • MAN:

    The atmosphere is a bit more tense, because we have observed that the government tried to move in some weapons or some tear gas into the headquarters.

  • LUCY WATSON:

    But Napo Wong is here to keep the peace, yet isn't fearful of what this could bring.

  • NAPO WONG:

    After the first tear gas shoot us, I think the people, they are not afraid anymore. And — but they feel very angry, I think angry, more than afraid.

  • LUCY WATSON:

    The number of protesters camping out here is growing by the minute in a face-off with police, and that's because this government building is the office of the chief executive of Hong Kong, and what they don't want is for him to be able to come here to work tomorrow, because the man from the glass tower, C.Y. Leung, still won't resign.

    He does say he's now willing to talk. Yet, if protesters invade this building, the consequences will be serious and they will respond.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    For a closer look at what's driving these young people to the streets, we turn to Demetri Sevastopulo, South China correspondent for The Financial Times. He's in Hong Kong, and I spoke to him a short time ago by Skype.

    Demetri Sevastopulo, thank you for joining us.

    Can you tell us how these incredible protests that we have seen spring up, these hundreds of thousands of people in the street? How do they spring up so quickly and so aggressively?

  • DEMETRI SEVASTOPULO, Financial Times:

    Well, students started boycotting classes and protesting last week, and at the end of the week, on Friday, a couple hundred students stormed an area outside one of the main government buildings in Hong Kong.

    A bunch of them were arrested, and that caused sympathy for the student movement and the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. On Sunday morning, a group called Occupy Central decided to launch a civil disobedience campaign, piggybacking on the back of the students' success in generating sympathy.

    And then, over the past five days, you have had massive outpourings of support and huge numbers of people on the streets of Hong Kong doing what's been an incredibly peaceful protest. It's really been an amazing situation here.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    It is a different kind of protest, no question. But what are they protesting? Are they protesting Beijing's strong hand when it comes to voting?

  • DEMETRI SEVASTOPULO:

    At the moment, they're protesting two things. The first thing is, Beijing wants to implement universal suffrage, which everybody wants in Hong Kong.

    People at the moment cannot vote for their chief executive or top political leader. But Beijing has implemented tough restrictions, which mean that the public will have no role in nominating the candidates. And, secondly, it's very difficult for anyone who is a critic of Beijing to get on the ballot.

    So the people say there's no point having universal suffrage if you're not given a genuine choice. The second thing they're fighting for at the moment is the resignation of the chief executive, C.Y. Leung. He's come under huge pressure, particularly since Sunday, when he ordered the police to fire tear gas at peaceful demonstrators.

    That's really changed the dynamic. And so now, unless he goes, I think the students are not going to be satisfied.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Beijing is now talking about unimaginable consequences when it takes — comes to pushing become on these kinds of protests. Do we know what that means?

  • DEMETRI SEVASTOPULO:

    Well, Beijing has since said that they think Hong Kong can manage this and that police in Hong Kong can handle the situation.

    But, at the end of the day, if the Hong Kong police are unable to manage the protest, if they got so out of control that it was very difficult for them, it is conceivable that China might decide to send in PLA soldiers. I think it's very unlikely, but you can't rule it out completely.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    They're talking about opening talks. What kind of talks are we talking about?

  • DEMETRI SEVASTOPULO:

    Well, the chief executive faced a midnight deadline for his resignation. The students said, if he didn't do that today, that they would storm government buildings and occupy government buildings.

    As a way to try and ease the tensions, he gave some crowd. He said, we will have talks with the students, but he also said he wouldn't resign. So the talks is a way for the different groups, the protesters, the students, Occupy Central to sit down with the government and see if they can reach some kind of a compromise.

    But I think very few people think that there is going to be any scope to do that.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Demetri Sevastopulo of The Financial Times from Hong Kong by Skype, thanks a lot for joining us.

  • DEMETRI SEVASTOPULO:

    Thank you.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In the day's other news: Health officials in Texas now say as many as 100 people may have been exposed to an Ebola patient in Dallas. All had direct or indirect contact with Thomas Duncan after he arrived from Liberia last month.

    Meanwhile, some families have begun keeping children out of several schools. Five students who attend those schools were exposed to Duncan.

    But superintendent Mike Miles sought to reassure parents today.

  • MIKE MILES, Superintendent, Dallas Independent School District:

    We don't think there's any virus at any of those buildings, but we will take that off the table. So, we're doing extra cleaning and disinfecting.

    And now we're — also enrolled the five students into the Homebound program, so that they will get curricular supports and technology supports to continue their education.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Four of Thomas Duncan's relatives have been ordered to stay in their homes under police guard for 21 days, to see if they show symptoms.

    And, in Liberia, authorities announced today they will prosecute Duncan for allegedly lying on a health form that he filled out before leaving the country.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Officials in Saudi Arabia are moving to keep that kingdom Ebola-free, as an estimated two million Muslims stream into Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage. The Saudis have refused to issue visas to anyone from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. And the Health Ministry said today all others are being asked to fill out medical screening cards as they arrive. The hajj lasts five days.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Turkey's parliament today authorized using military force against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Lawmakers voted to authorize cross-border military incursions. The defense minister also said foreign troops will be allowed to use Turkish territory and military bases in the fight.

  • ISMET YILMAZ, Turkish Defense Minister (through translator):

    The existence of Islamist militants in the region 37 kilometers away from the Turkish-Syrian border is an obvious threat against our national security. The Turkish republic will not hesitate to take the necessary steps to fulfill this responsibility.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The vote followed a warning by the Kurdish militant PKK in Turkey. It threatened to abandon peace talks with the Ankara government if fellow Kurds living in Syria are massacred.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Back in this country, President Obama returned his focus to the economy, with the midterm elections a month away. He spoke at Northwestern University and said that, by every economic measure, the country is better off than when he took office. But he acknowledged, that's not enough.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    It is also indisputable that millions of Americans don't yet feel enough of the benefits of a growing economy where it matters most. And that's in their own lives.

    And these truths aren't incompatible. Our broader economy in the aggregate has come a long way, but the gains of recovery are not yet broadly shared.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    In fact, the president said, income inequality is the worst it's been in decades and he said, "I find that hard to swallow."

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    J.P. Morgan Chase confirmed today that it has had a data breach affecting 76 million households and seven million small businesses. But the bank said there is no evidence that any account information was actually stolen.

    And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost three points to close at 16,801; the Nasdaq rose eight to close at 4,430; and the S&P 500 was virtually unchanged at 1,946.

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