China sticks to Hong Kong election framework despite vote

China sticks to Hong Kong election framework despite vote
Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong speaks as he attends a rally in Hong Kong on May 31, 2015, to commemorate the 1989 crackdown at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, prior to the incident's 26th anniversary on June 4.
PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - China's legislature Thursday indicated that it will not back down on its proposed electoral reform package for Hong Kong, despite the proposal being rejected by the city's lawmakers.

The government's electoral roadmap would have given all residents the right to vote for the city's leader - known as the chief executive - for the first time in 2017, but only able to choose from candidates vetted by a Beijing loyalist committee.

The proposal, derided by campaigners as "fake democracy", was voted down by 28 votes to eight Thursday, with the majority of pro-government lawmakers walking out of the legislative chamber without casting their ballots as defeat loomed.

"The direction towards universal suffrage and the legal principles laid down in the decision of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, must continue to be upheld in future efforts to pursue universal suffrage," the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing a statement from the NPC Standing Committee.

"The decision shall continue to serve as the constitutional ground for Hong Kong in the future as it enforces universal suffrage in the chief executive election, and its legal force is unquestionable." The statement indicates the Chinese government will not revise the electoral reform framework handed down last August, despite fervent opposition from pro-democracy activists who staged mass street rallies in Hong Kong late last year. 

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, which deals with relations between the central government and Hong Kong, also signalled the veto would not change Beijing's thinking.

Universal suffrage will not be used to elect the chief executive in 2017, Xinhua reported, citing a statement from the office, adding it was not a favourable result.

But the government may try to reintroduce a one-person, one-vote system for electing the city's leader in a future election, the statement indicates.

"This result is not what we want to see," Beijing's foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said after Thursday's vote on the electoral bill, which required support from two-thirds of the assembly's 70 lawmakers to pass.

He added that China wanted to "press ahead with the democratic development of Hong Kong" in the interests of stability and prosperity in the former British colony.

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