HONG KONG – The Hong Kong government pulled out of talks with representatives of the student-led pro-democracy protests late Thursday, after demonstrators announced that they’d begin a new phase of civil disobedience to increase pressure on the government. Chief Executive CY Leung and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam said last week that Lam would meet with protest leaders after protestors set a deadline for Leung to resign. The talks were meant to happen today.

“I did look forward to a constructive dialogue with the student representatives,” Lam said in a statement. “However, with much regret, based on the public remarks made by the student representatives over these two days, especially this afternoon, I realized that the basis for a constructive dialogue between us and the students has been seriously undermined.” They now insist on public nomination and to abolish the decision made by the [National People’s Congress]. They also … said the movement would last until the talks produce a result [they want]. This is sacrificing public good for their political demands and is against public interests and political ethics,” she said.

Alex Chow, head of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, criticized Lam last night for citing their continued demands as a reason to kill the talks. “Hong Kong is a place with freedom of speech. Do we not have the right to make demands? The wish of Hong Kong people to revoke the decision of the [National People’s Congress] is perfectly reasonable,” Chow said.    Both parties have expressed hope that the talks could eventually resume, although Lam declined to predict when or under what conditions. On Thursday, Leung also came under increased pressure as lawmakers demanded an independent investigation be launched into reports that the leader had accepted a secret 7 million USD payout from an Australian firm, a revelation that further fueled protestors’ demands for him to step down.

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