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Hong Kong Cancels Talks With Protesters

  • Daniel Schearf

Hong Kong authorities have canceled talks with pro-democracy protesters occupying parts of the city after they vowed to step up civil disobedience.

The protest leader said increased pressure was needed ahead of the talks to ensure progress toward direct elections, and urged supporters to continue occupying public spaces

Alex Chow of the Hong Kong Federation of Students on Thursday blamed the government for the stall in negotiations, saying the students had not done anything to provoke the action.

Chow ridiculed the government's decision to cancel the talks.

"Hong Kong is an international metropolitan city. This move by the government - this response by the government, is absolutely an international laughing stock," he said.

Link to possibly illegal actions

Late Thursday, Hong Kong Chief Secretary Carrie Lam had canceled the widely anticipated talks with pro-democracy protest leaders.

Lam said the government does not want to be linked with possibly illegal actions, which is how China has described the protests.

"We cannot accept the fact that someone will link the talks with possible continued illegal Occupy (Central) actions," Lam said.

In an evening press conference, Hong Kong's second-in-charge said the protesters were not acting in good faith by threatening to expand a two-week demonstration occupying central parts of the city.

Earlier Thursday, a group of student leaders said they would not disperse the sit-ins that have paralyzed parts of the city for nearly two weeks.

The leaders from Occupy Central, the Federation of Students, and Scholarism also threatened to occupy more areas and hold additional school boycotts if their demands are not met.

The protesters are demanding that Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying resign and that Beijing reverse its decision to screen candidates for the territory's 2017 election.

Chow, of the Federation of Students, had said, "If this government is not sincere and has no will to really respond to Hong Kong citizens’ demand on constitutional reform, then the next step would be more ... methods and way of disobedient struggle in Hong Kong."

Scholarism founder Joshua Wong also said earlier Thursday they were considering additional student-led boycotts.

Voiced support for demonstrators

Opposition political supporters in Hong Kong's legislature announced their support for the demonstrators and a plan to impeach Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

The number of protesters has dwindled to just a few hundred, down from the tens of thousands that initially gathered at the protest sites that have been declared illegal by Hong Kong and Chinese authorities.

Attempts to force Leung to resign may be bolstered by the recent emergence of media reports accusing the leader of taking $6.4 million in undisclosed payments from an Australian company while in office.

Leung has denied any wrongdoing in accepting the payments, saying the deal was a standard non-compete clause signed before he became chief executive.

Several pro-democracy lawmakers have called for an investigation into the deal.

"We would continue to prepare for the impeachment of CY Leung," said Pan-Democratic camp representative Alan Leong. "We are actively gathering evidence. And, as soon as the draft charges are ready, we would move a motion of impeachment in the council."

A growing number of Hong Kong voices are opposing the disruption of traffic and business while the demonstrators argue it is a small price to pay to fight for genuine democracy.

VOA's Cantonese service contributed to this report.

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