Pro-democracy protesters called off talks with the government on political reforms today after mobs tried to drive them from the streets where they have held a weeklong, largely peaceful demonstration. The protesters urged residents to join their cause and demanded that the police protect their encampments. The Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the groups leading the demonstrations that drew tens of thousands of people earlier this week, said they saw no choice but to cancel the dialogue. "The government is demanding the streets be cleared. We call upon all Hong Kong people to immediately come to protect our positions and fight to the end," the group said in a statement.
They demanded the government hold someone responsible for the scuffles today, the worst disturbances since police used tear gas and pepper spray on protesters last weekend to try to disperse them. The standoff is the biggest challenge to Beijing's authority since it took over the former British colony in 1997. Earlier today, the students had agreed to talks with the government proposed by Hong Kong's leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. But his attempt to defuse tensions fell flat as many protesters were unhappy with his refusal to yield their demands for his resignation. (Comments from his daughter about her taxpayer-funded jewelry probably didn't help.)