Kin Cheung / AP Photo

Hong Kong protest referendum called off

Protest leaders cancel planned vote on their next step, saying demonstrators were not properly consulted

Protest leaders in Hong Kong have cancelled a vote on what the next step should be in their month-long street occupation, saying they hadn't properly consulted with the demonstrators before calling the referendum.

The two-day vote, which had been scheduled for Sunday and Monday, was supposed to have gauged support among protesters for counter proposals to offers made by Hong Kong's government following talks last week between student protest leaders and authorities.

The government offered to submit a report to Beijing noting the protesters' unhappiness with a decision to have an appointed committee, widely seen as stacked with pro-Beijing elites, screen candidates for the election of a leader of the semiautonomous city. However, Leung Chun-ying, the current chief executive, has said that Beijing would not change its mind on the elections.  

Protesters are demanding open nominations for chief executive in the city's 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 apologize 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. 

A protester at the barricades in densely populated Mong Kok, a center of the movement, said the referendum was unnecessary. He said the fact that he had been on the streets for nearly a month should be telling enough. A supplies volunteer at the main protest site in Admiralty, echoed those sentiments, saying that it was a leaderless movement and there was no need to establish who was in charge. 

The groups behind the referendum had called for voting to be held only at the main downtown protest site, upsetting demonstrators at two other occupation sites located elsewhere in Hong Kong.

The protesters are facing growing pressure over the demonstrations, which began Sept. 28 and are stretching into their second month with no sign of concession from the government.

Although hundreds of people remain camped out at the main protest site, demonstrators said this past 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 Sunday. “We can't occupy the streets with no time limitations.”

Al Jazeera and wire services

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