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HK demo leaders denied China travel

Three Hong Kong students who have led protests for greater democracy in the former British colony have been refused travel to Beijing to meet top Chinese officials.

Alex Chow, Nathan Law and Eason Chung - members of a student group that played a major role in organising street protests which started nearly two months ago - arrived at Hong Kong airport and were greeted by well-wishers.

But they were denied boarding passes for a Cathay Pacific flight when they were told that their documents which would allow them to travel to Beijing were invalid.

The group left the airport, and a news conference was scheduled for later today.

The students had intended to fly to Beijing and head straight to China's legislature to seek talks with Premier Li Keqiang and others.

The protesters oppose Beijing's decision that a panel should screen candidates for the territory's inaugural 2017 elections.

But Beijing has denounced the movement as illegal.

An editorial in today's edition of the party-run newspaper Global Times said the students were not expected to meet Chinese leaders and said their travel plans were merely a show for sympathy.

"These activists may be too naive," the editorial reads. "Do they really know who they are and whom they can represent? How can they meet whomever they want in Beijing?"

Beijing has in the past confiscated or refused to renew travel permits for a number of Hong Kong activists, banning them from entering mainland China.

Mr Chow and his two deputies arrived at Hong Kong International Airport amid a large crowd of supporters, prompting security officers to set up barriers to control the crowd so as not to disrupt the flow of other travellers through the facility.

The crowd sang songs and chanted slogans, and about 80 of them held up yellow umbrellas, which have become a symbol for the pro-democracy movement.

When the flight took off, the seats booked by the student leaders were draped with signs reading: "Seat inop, do not occupy".

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