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Hong Kong activists agree to talks as protests shrink

Hong Kong activists agree to talks as protests shrink

Hong Kong: Hong Kong protest leaders said late Monday they had agreed to hold talks with the government as their numbers dwindled and they faced growing pressure to end their pro-democracy sit-in.

The mass rallies that had drawn tens of thousands evaporated Sunday night in the face of a warning from Hong Kong's embattled leader Leung Chun-ying to leave the streets and allow government offices to reopen.

Many heeded the call but several hundred weary demonstrators remained at the main site in downtown Admiralty, with similar numbers across the harbour in Mongkok.

Student leaders denied their campaign for free elections had lost momentum, saying they would remain on the streets, even as they announced that talks with the government would take place this week.

But Leung issued another warning to disperse, saying they should leave the flashpoint district of Mongkok -- which has seen ugly scuffles with triad mobs -- "as soon as possible".

"To prevent violent crime and to reduce the amount of injuries, police will take action at the right time," Leung said in a televised address, describing the area as "high risk".

The protesters and their well-organised campaign have enjoyed strong public support, with sympathy soaring after police used tear gas on the crowds. But after shutting down parts of the city for more than a week, irritation has grown.

Highways were jammed with traffic and subway trains were packed Monday as frustrated commuters tried to find their way to and from work, battling cancelled bus routes and road diversions.

"They have to let the cars through as soon as possible -- they are blocking the way," 25-year-old Michael Lau told AFP as he travelled on the city's tram network.

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