Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying struck a conciliatory tone during a press conference on Thursday, announcing that his government was willing to meet with student protest leaders to resolve the territory's political crisis.
"Politics is the art of the possible," Leung said.
Leung, though, was careful to stress that what was possible was only so much. Hong Kong, under pressure from Beijing, remains unwilling to rescind a new law that limits eligibility for the territory's 2017 chief-executive elections to candidates pre-approved by China. Leung pointed out that the chief demands of student protest leaders—that Hong Kong grant its population "universal suffrage" and that Leung step down—are out of the question, and that his patience with the demonstrations has worn out.
"We cannot allow the situation to continue to have an adverse effect on Hong Kong society," he said. China was far more blunt. An editorial published Wednesday in the People's Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, said simply that "the protests are doomed to fail."
Even if, as likely, the protesters eventually give up without obtaining meaningful concessions, the events in Hong Kong over the last month reveal an ominous trend for China.