HONG KONG: Crunch talks between Hong Kong’s democracy protesters and the government have been called off, just hours after demonstrators vowed to ratchet up their occupation of key parts of the city if their demands were not met.
The collapse of the talks, which were due to take place Friday, plunges the Asian financial hub into fresh crisis with protesters refusing to retreat from their barricades and an equally intransigent government rejecting further negotiations.
Parts of Hong Kong have been paralyzed for almost two weeks by demonstrations calling for Beijing to grant full democracy to the former British colony and for city leader Leung Chun-ying to resign.
Although the crowds have shrunk dramatically from their peak of tens of thousands last week, the government’s decision to cancel the talks triggered a swell in numbers once more as pro-democracy campaigners gathered to hear the response from their leaders.
Around 1,000 gathered at the main protest site outside government headquarters in the central Admiralty district late Thursday, a Agence France-Presse reporter at the scene said.
China announced in August that while Hong Kongers will be able to vote for Leung’s successor in 2017, only two or three vetted candidates will be allowed to stand — an arrangement the protesters dismiss as “fake democracy”.
Hopes of a breakthrough were dashed Thursday evening as Leung’s deputy Carrie Lam announced the government was pulling out of talks with the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), which has been at the vanguard of the protests.
“The basis for constructive dialogue has been undermined. It’s impossible to have a constructive meeting tomorrow,” Lam said.
Her announcement came merely hours after a coalition of pro-democracy leaders gathered at the main protest site and vowed to ramp up their civil disobedience campaign if the talks broke down.