Pro-democracy demonstrators scrap vote on the next step in campaign, and apologise for lack of consultation
The Guardian, Sunday 26 October 2014
The leaders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests cancelled a vote on what the next step should be in their month-long street occupation, saying they had not consulted the demonstrators properly before calling the referendum.
The two-day vote, which had been due to take place on Sunday and Monday, was supposed to have gauged the protesters’ support for counterproposals to offers made by Hong Kong’s government after talks last week between student protest leaders and the authorities.
The government offered to submit a report to Beijing noting the protesters’ unhappiness with a decision to have an appointed committee screen candidates for the semi-autonomous city’s leader, known as the chief executive.
Protesters are demanding open nominations for chief executive in the inaugural direct election, promised for 2017.
“We admit that we did not have enough discussion with the people before deciding to go ahead with the vote and we apologise to the people,” the protest leaders said in a statement. They also cited “differing opinions regarding the format, motions and effectiveness” of the referendum.
Two student groups – the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism – and the activist group Occupy Central With Peace and Love had called for the referendum on Friday.
The vote would have asked the protesters whether they supported having the government’s report ask Beijing to consider open nominations for 2017 election candidates. The government had also made a vague offer of dialogue with the protesters, and the vote would have gauged support for ensuring it covered reforming Hong Kong’s legislature.
The groups behind the referendum had called for voting to be held only at the main protest site, upsetting demonstrators at two other occupation sites located elsewhere in Hong Kong.
The protesters are facing growing pressure, with the demonstrations, which began on 28 September, stretching into their second month and no sign of concessions from the government.
Although thousands of people remain camped out at the main protest site, demonstrators said last week that they did not see any resolution in sight.
“I think we should think about our plan and think about whether to retreat,” protester Jo Tai said on Sunday. “We can’t occupy the streets with no time limitations.”