The past week was a roller-coaster ride for Occupy Central organisers as their efforts to search for a way out of the political impasse ran into one roadblock after another despite apparent help from pro-establishment figures. A key obstacle was the government's refusal to compromise ahead of planned talks, but split views among the three protest organising groups and their inability to maintain support from allies and protest participants also factored in the aborted dialogue. Leaders of the Federation of Students, one of the three organising groups, had been scheduled to meet Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last Friday to thrash out a solution. Ahead of that meeting, the federation, Occupy Central and student activist group Scholarism made various concessions. In an October 2 letter to Lam, the student leaders no longer insisted on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying resigning and toned down their demand that the National People's Congress Standing Committee entirely scrap its framework for electoral reform. Both conditions are believed to go beyond what Beijing would be willing to concede. But the students still asked that the public be able to nominate chief executive candidates in 2017 - an idea Beijing has banned repeatedly. The protest organisers had also mulled whether to ask the government to submit a supplementary report to the Standing Committee that would mention the results of Occupy's civil "referendum" in June, in which almost 800,000 Hongkongers voted for a reform plan that would comply with world standards. It is understood that liberal Beijing-loyalist figures had offered to act as middlemen and help them by "testing the waters" in the government. Core members of Occupy and the federation confirmed that they had once passed the idea of the supplementary report to those middlemen. "It may sound like a very humble request, but in fact it is very wise as this could pave the way for Beijing - which fears a loss of face - to review its decision on reform," an Occupy source said. But the government cancelled Friday's talks on Thursday night. The trigger was a media conference hosted that day by the protest organisers and pan-democratic lawmakers. In front of cameras, all of them vowed to escalate their disobedience and non-cooperation if the government failed to make "substantial responses". Labour Party leader Lee Cheuk-yan even led the team to chant "Withdraw the Standing Committee decision" - a demand that the government considers as "crossing the line". Lam responded by saying the basis for a "constructive dialogue" had been undermined. A core federation member said: "We immediately realised it might not have been a good sign for those phrases to emerge. It gave an excuse for Leung - who apparently does not want to see the dialogue happen - to call it off." Seventeen days into the mass sit-ins, the Leung administration has yet to make any compromise. That was despite compromises made on the part of the protest organisers, such as clearing the way for civil servants to reach their workplace at the blockaded government headquarters in Admiralty. They had also offered to retreat from the occupied Queensway in exchange for the reopening of the Civic Square in front of the government offices. That was snubbed by the administration as well. And Lam, following her last-minute cancellation of Friday's talks, painted a gloomy picture of the reform issue on Saturday. "We have finished the first two steps of the five-step procedures [on political reform and] will soon begin the second round of public consultation, where we will discuss concrete proposals with residents," she said. Pan-democrats believe that announcement effectively rules out submitting any supplementary report to the committee. But the "generation gap" between the younger and older organisers, coupled with other protesters' refusal to look to them as their leaders, has also made the campaign tougher to lead. "The 'adults' want to end the occupation soon to prevent anyone getting hurt when the police clear the sites," the core federation member said. "But they fail to realise many participants are self-initiated and ready for possible injuries in the democracy fight. It is difficult to ask people to leave when the government has made no concessions." Occupy co-founder Dr Chan Kin-man said they would stand by the students and offer help when necessarily, although they might hold different views. "It would be impossible for Occupy and the students to convince people to leave the occupied areas unless the government could solve the crisis via action," he said yesterday.