Hong Kong students call for protests as talks cancelled

Hong Kong’s student protest leaders have called on supporters to stage a major rally later on Friday after the government cancelled planned talks.

The two sides were supposed to be meeting on Friday for the first time since pro-democracy protests erupted in late September.

But on Friday the government said it would be be “impossible to have a constructive dialogue”.

Protester numbers have fallen dramatically in recent days.

Last week thousands of demonstrators from both student groups and the wider pro-democracy Occupy Central movement paralysed parts of the city.

But by Monday only a few hundred protesters, mostly students, remained on the streets around the financial and government district of Admiralty and in Mong Kok north of the harbour. Barricades remain in place, blocking off major roads.

The protesters are demanding a fully free vote in elections due to be held in 2017 for the post of chief executive, Hong Kong’s leader.

China has said that, under Hong Kong law, voters will be able to vote freely but from a list approved by a nominating committee.

The BBC’s Juliana Liu in Hong Kong says the activists are hoping a new show of strength will be enough to sustain the movement.

On Thursday evening, the student leaders had asked for an escalation of their protests and occupation if the government did not make concessions.

Hours later, the government official involved in the talks, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, accused them of “undermining trust” in the proposed talks.

“The dialogue cannot be deployed as an excuse to incite more people to join the protest,” she said. “The illegal occupation activists must stop.”

Pro-democracy student leaders later accused the government of insincerity and urged them to return to the negotiating table.

“The chaos was caused by the government. They are responsible for cleaning up the mess,” Alex Chow, the president of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.