HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong’s democracy protest leaders implored supporters Friday to bring tents and dig in for the long haul, threatening to expand their occupation of key parts of the city after talks with the government collapsed.
Crunch negotiations between protesters and Beijing-backed city officials were slated for Friday, but fell apart Thursday after the government pulled out, blaming student leaders for attempting to escalate demonstrations.
The decision deepened the political crisis convulsing the Asian financial hub, with the failure of talks expected to reinvigorate mass rallies that have paralysed parts of the city for nearly two weeks.
Demonstrators are calling for Beijing to grant the former British colony full democracy and for the city’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to resign.
Under plans unveiled by China in August, Hong Kongers will be able to vote for Leung’s successor in 2017, but only two to three vetted candidates will be allowed to stand – something detractors have dismissed as a “fake democracy”.
Student leaders Friday blamed the government for pulling out of talks, and insisted they were still open to finding a middle ground.
But they vowed no let up in their occupation of parts of Hong Kong despite growing public anger over the disruption they have caused.
“Come to occupy the road outside the public headquarters, come bring your tents to show our persistence on long term occupy action,” student leader Joshua Wong told supporters at the main protest site outside the government headquarters ahead of a planned mass rally at 7.30pm.
Crowds have dwindled in recent days. At the main protest site Friday afternoon only a few hundred could be seen.
But the movement’s leaders are banking on both mustering significant numbers over the weekend and potentially expanding their sit-ins to keep pressure on the government.
“We are now planning on further action for escalating (the campaign) if the government keeps denying the meeting,” student leader Alex Chow said.