Authorities in Hong Kong have suspended talks scheduled for Friday after student protest leaders, looking to revive their flagging movement, called upon supporters to once again take to the streets.
The student leaders now risk loss of credibility in case they are unable to mount a show of strength on the city’s streets.
“The dialogue cannot be deployed as an excuse to incite more people to join the protest,” said Carrie Lam, the chief negotiator from the government’s side.
“The illegal occupation by activists must stop.”
Ms. Lam, the Chief Secretary, stressed that it would be “impossible to have a constructive dialogue”, now that the protest leaders have called for fresh mobilisation in the main centres of protest.
Analysts say that without talks, there will not be a visible focal point to immediately revive the agitation.
Student leader Alex Chow defended the decision to call for mobilisation, but hoped that the Hong Kong government would reverse its decision and go ahead with Friday’s dialogue. “If the chief secretary was sincere, the dialogue would still be going on tomorrow,” he observed.
Realising that further street protests, which had left Hong Kong divided, could boomerang, some students leaders are suggesting pursuit of other forms of civil disobedience.
The website of the South China Morning Post quoted student leader Ian Chan Kok-hin, external vice-president of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, as saying that “occupying the roads is just one means of civil disobedience, but there are others”.
He said that all three core elements of the movement — Occupy Central; the Federation of Studentsl; the Scholarism; and other NGOs — would launch another round of civil disobedience.
“Boycotting the payment of government taxes” is one of the options that was being considered, he said. “The government will have to listen to the public.”
Protests began in Hong Kong after the Chinese government reiterated its stand that in 2017, elections for the post of the Chief Executive would be held by universal suffrage.
However, the choice will be among candidates that would be screened by a committee. The protesters, seeking unqualified democracy, are rejecting Beijing’s decision to vet the candidates for the CE’s post.