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Friday, October 10, 2014, 09:05

Govt cancels talks amid threats of escalation

By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong
Govt cancels talks amid threats of escalation
A minibus driver displays an anti-”Occupy” sign on the windshield of a minibus in Shau Kei Wan on Thursday. About 20 minibuses joined a slow-drive protest between Shau Kei Wan and Causeway Bay in protest at the continuation of the “Occupy” movement blocking traffic and affecting drivers’ livelihoods. (Roy Liu / CHINA DAILY)

The Hong Kong government has canceled talks with student leaders after the latter threatened to continue or even escalate the protest action unless their demands on electoral reform were met.

Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Thursday that the high-level task force in charge of the electoral reforms was disappointed by the recent conduct of students. It decided there was no longer a “constructive” basis upon which to proceed with the talks.

However, Lam reaffirmed the government’s sincerity in engaging in constructive dialogue. But to move forward, both sides had to respect the constitutional basis of the electoral reform in accordance with the Basic Law and relevant decisions by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).

The government agreed to talk to the Hong Kong Federation of Students on Oct 2, because the federation’s invitation letter did not specify any goals.

But Lam said they were disappointed to learn on Thursday of the student leaders continuing insistence that the decision of the top legislature be overturned.

Lam said the reason for the breakdown of talks was that student leaders had vowed to maintain the unlawful assembly locations which are currently occupied. Their supporters had also threatened to hold more secondary school class boycotts, while opposition lawmakers were also planning to block funding requests.

Lam stressed that the government could not accept such unreasonable demands. Government officials were also alarmed at the possibility that the talks might be “used as an excuse to motivate more people to join the protests.”

The chief secretary did not rule out clearing the blockades by force. Police have been given full authority to uphold the law. She urged wisdom, pragmatism and patience in building consensus among all stakeholders.

Two hours before Lam’s announcement, Elsie Leung Oi-sie, deputy director of the HKSAR Basic Law Committee under the NPCSC, urged the government and protest leaders to engage in meaningful dialogue to end confrontation. She also advised advocates to be calm and patient.

Protester numbers and public support have continued to slip since the blockades began on Sept 28.

Efforts by police officers, officials, district councilors and professional drivers to re-open Queensway at Admiralty, failed to have any effect on protesters there on Thursday.

Police spokesman Chief Superintendent Steve Hui told reporters they were duty-bound to collect evidence for an investigation on unlawful blockades.

Action will be taken when appropriate. He had said the future behavior of protesters would be vital in assessing the different options available.

Thursday also saw full resumption of all kindergartens in Wan Chai and the Central and Western Districts.


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