Hopes of finding a resolution to the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong collapsed today as the protesters scrapped talks with the government, citing violent attacks by Beijing supporters and suspected members of China's Triad mafia.
Police said they had arrested eight suspected members of Triad criminal gangs over ugly clashes at the week-long democracy protests Friday, while demonstrators said the violence was orchestrated by paid thugs to stir up trouble and discredit the movement.
Amnesty International blasted the Hong Kong police, saying officers did nothing to protect protesters, whose rallies have led to major disruptions in the business district.
China accused the protesters of "daydreaming"; saying in effect that there was no hope of full democracy in the former British colony.
"The actions taken by Hong Kong police to handle Occupy Central are an inescapable necessity to preserve the rule of law," an editorial in Communist Party mouthpiece the People`s Daily said.
The protests were triggered by China`s announcement in August that while Hong Kong citizens can vote for their next leader in 2017, only candidates vetted by Beijing will be allowed to stand.
While the United States, Europe and Japan have expressed concern at the scenes playing out in the key Asian financial hub, China`s Communist authorities have refused to make concessions.
Students had agreed to talks with the government in an eleventh-hour decision on Thursday night as crowds massed outside central government offices demanding Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying resign. But protest leaders called off the talks late Friday following chaotic scenes in the commercial hubs of Mong Kok and Causeway Bay.
There were widespread allegations of sexual assault in the packed crowds, with three girls seen being bundled into a police van in tears after apparently being assaulted at the Causeway Bay protest.
"There is no other option but to call off talks," said the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), one of several groups driving a campaign for free elections that has brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets of the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
"The government and police turned a blind eye to violent acts by the triads targeting peaceful Occupy protesters," the union added, referring to Occupy Central, another prominent group.
At a press briefing Saturday, police denied acting in concert with triads, adding that 12 people had been injured in the clashes, including six officers.