Hong Kong faces political unrest as China sets strict election rules

Hong Kong faces political unrest as China sets strict election rules
A pro-democracy activist looks at a backdrop with Chinese characters that read "disobedience" in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is in for a protracted period of political disquiet, with Beijing having set stringent rules on constitutional reform that will make it all but impossible for a pro-democracy candidate to run for Chief Executive.

Democracy activists called yesterday the "darkest day in the history of Hong Kong's democratic development", and vowed to step up their fight for what they termed genuine democracy.

The time for dialogue has passed, said the Occupy Central movement, adding that a sit-in to paralyse the financial district "will definitely happen".

An emotional rally it organised last night at the government headquarters in Admiralty saw 5,000 supporters turn out amid police presence. There, student activist group Scholarism said it would immediately prepare to kick-start a class boycott.

At least 23 of 27 pan-democrat lawmakers said they would veto any reform Bill formulated along the lines set out by Beijing. This means such a Bill is unlikely to be passed by the city's 70-member legislature as a two-thirds majority is needed.

China's top legislative body, the National People's Congress' Standing Committee (NPCSC), in Beijing unanimously passed a resolution outlining long-promised universal suffrage for Hong Kong by 2017.

As expected, it confirmed that in accordance with the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution, there must be a "broadly representative" nominating committee to vet contenders. But some moderates had hoped for leeway to discuss other areas.

To their dismay, NPCSC said the panel's composition and size must match those of the 1,200-strong election committee that now picks the Chief Executive. It is stacked with Beijing loyalists and industry interests.

This closes the door on any talks to enlarge the panel to make it more representative.

Furthermore, successful candidates must get the votes of at least half the panel - higher than the current one-eighth thres-hold, which allowed pan-democrat candidates to go through.

The number of candidates will be capped at two or three.

Meanwhile, NPCSC deputy secretary-general Li Fei made it clear that failure to achieve universal suffrage by 2017 would see Hong Kong retaining its current selection system.

"If it misses this opportunity, future chances will take a longer time to come," he said. "I hope Hong Kong society will rationally discuss the way forward based on NPCSC's decision."

'Critical phase' for HK, says Beijing

Failure to pass constitutional reform by 2017 will hurt Hong Kong's business environment and its development, warned a key Beijing official.

Mr Li Fei, deputy secretary of China's top legislative body, yesterday said the city is entering a "critical phase" and painted the scenario of endless political debate if the city's Legislative Council does not vote for the proposal.

Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying meanwhile sought to highlight the "major step forward" that direct election of the chief executive meant. "The majority of Hong Kong people... will no longer be bystanders in the next CE election," he said.

But the framework outlined by the National People Con-gress' Standing Committee yesterday was met with "disgust" from pan-Democrats and their supporters. Hong Kongers gathered, despite heavy rain, at a park next to the government headquarters. Some waved banners with slogans such as "Chinese Communist Party! You lied to us!"

Teacher Janice Chiu, 48, said: "We want to vote for our own leader and not have him chosen by some committee. What is the point of 'voting' for people we didn't choose in the first place?"

Meanwhile, Macau saw a smaller-scale protest as its 400-strong election panel returned Chief Executive Fernando Chui unopposed to a second term. About a dozen protesters outside the election venue called for the people's right to elect their leader.

xueying@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on September 01, 2014.
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