Hong Kong Embraces Beijing's Plan on Electoral Reform

Hong Kong Chief Secretary Carrie Lam announces support for the government's political reform package in the city's Legislative Council. The government proposed that the nomination threshold for potential election candidates in a 1,200-member nomination committee be reduced from 150 to 120 votes. EPA/ALEX HOFFORD

HONG KONG (DPA) — The Hong Kong government backed a controversial electoral reform proposal on Wednesday that keeps the candidate selection process for its 2017 elections in the hands of a pro-business, pro-Beijing committee.

The proposal, which would add seats and sectors to an existing 1200-member nominating committee that filters election candidates, has been promoted by Hong Kong's government as a step toward full democracy.

Supporters of the Hong Kong government's electoral reform package wave Chinese national and Hong Kong regional flags and confront protesters waving yellow umbrellas and banners in Hong Kong. EPA/ALEX HOFFORD

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam said that Hong Kong would be able to continue negotiations for a public runoff for candidates and election, but opposition legislators call the proposal a sham.


"The chances of my winning the Mark Six (Hong Kong lottery) tomorrow is higher than the chances of Beijing wanting to perfect the system," said local legislator Alan Leong. "They will not want to be bothered to do this once we've pocketed this proposal."

The process would serve to legitimise a leader who may not have the best interests of Hong Kong residents in mind, Leong said.

"They're treating us like voting machines, we've no say in the process," he added.

Beijing's decision last August to rule out the possibility of direct nominations in Hong Kong's 2017 elections sparked protests that saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets over the course of nearly three months.

In recent weeks, a group of die-hard protestors have slowly begun a small-scale occupation of the pavement outside the city's legislative complex.

"There could be a large-scale occupation if some pan-democrats change their mind and vote in support of the package," said student protest leader Joshua Wong, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.

Despite the possibility of more protests and occupation, Hong Kong Chief Secretary Carrie Lam made clear in her address to legislators Wednesday that there would be "no compromise" on the matter.

She urged pro-democratic legislators not to veto the bill, saying the latest polls had shown support from more than 50 per cent of the population for the current proposal, and that Chinese University polls showing less than 50 per cent support were now seeing an upward trend of increasing support.

Should the proposal pass, five million people will be eligible to vote.

If not, the current electoral system, which sees a similar 1,200-person committee directly elect the chief executive, will stay in place.

Britain negotiated a "one country, two systems" principle as part of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to Chinese rule. It grants freedoms to Hong Kong residents that are not given to Chinese citizens on the mainland, and allows Hong Kong relative autonomy until 2047.

Beijing's proposal:

– Step 1: A 1,200-member committee, composed of representatives from the industrial, commercial, financial, labour, social services and religious sectors will vote first to nominate from 5 to 10 preliminary candidates.

Each candidate will need to secure 120 votes for a nomination.

– Step 2: These preliminary candidates will be put forward and a second vote taken by the committee, where each person has two votes.

The candidates who have more than 600 votes each will then stand for public election.


Reporting by Christy Choi, dpa


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