Hong Kong law­mak­ers re­ject ‘fake democ­racy’ pack­age

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY AARON TAM

Hong Kong law­mak­ers on Thurs­day re­jected a Bei­jing­backed elec­toral re­form pack­age de­rided as “fake democ­racy” dur­ing mass protests last year, leav­ing the city in dead­lock over how its leader should be cho­sen.

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

In an un­prece­dented re­buke, the pro­posal was voted down by 28 votes to eight, with the ma­jor­ity of pro-gov­ern­ment law­mak­ers walk­ing out of the leg­isla­tive cham­ber with­out cast­ing their bal­lots as de­feat loomed.

Bei­jing Will ‘press ahead’

“This re­sult is not what we want to see,” Bei­jing’s for­eign min­istry spokesman Lu Kang said af­ter the vote, 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.

But an­a­lysts agreed that Bei­jing was un­likely to al­ter its stance on the vet­ting of can­di­dates, and author­i­ties in Hong Kong have said the po­lit­i­cal re­form de­bate is now off the ta­ble for 2017.

That means the next chief ex­ec­u­tive will be cho­sen by a 1,200-strong pro-Bei­jing com­mit­tee, as was the un­pop­u­lar cur­rent leader, Le­ung Chun-ying.

“I, the gov­ern­ment and mil­lions of Hong Kong peo­ple are nat­u­rally dis­ap­pointed,” Le­ung said af­ter the vote, ac­cus­ing the democrats of deny­ing res­i­dents the op­por­tu­nity to choose a leader.

Le­ung added it was time for the com­mu­nity to “move on” and fo­cus on other is­sues.

“Po­lit­i­cal re­form will ef­fec­tively grind to a halt,” said Shi Yin­hong, in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions pro­fes­sor at Bei­jing’s Ren­min Univer­sity.

“There is un­likely to be a new (re­form) pro­posal from China’s gov­ern­ment,” he said.

Pro-democ­racy law­mak­ers did not cast their de­feat of the vote as a vic­tory, with some say­ing that it was just the be­gin­ning of a long bat­tle.

“I think in the short-term we can­not see any op­por­tu­nity or in­cen­tive for them to sit to­gether and start up another round of ne­go­ti­a­tions,” said Ivan Choy, a se­nior lec­turer at the Chi­nese Univer­sity of Hong Kong.

“Po­lit­i­cal re­form may be in a dead­lock for two or three years.”

Hong Kong is largely self-gov­ern­ing af­ter be­ing handed back to China by the United King­dom in 1997 and en­joys much greater free­doms than on the main­land, but there are fears that these are be­ing eroded.

An­a­lysts say that de­spite Thurs­day’s vote, the pro-democ­racy cam­paign risks frag­ment­ing as frus­tra­tions grow over the lack of progress, and that smaller rad­i­cal splin­ter groups could emerge.

Bei­jing Back­lash?

Bei­jing has not made it clear how it will re­spond to what was a slap in the face for the main­land author­i­ties.

China’s

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leg­is­la­ture em- pha­sized that the is­sue was non­nego­tiable, say­ing its de­ci­sion last Au­gust to in­sist on the vet­ting of can­di­dates will re­main in force in the fu­ture, state media re­ported.

“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,” Xin­hua re­ported, cit­ing a state­ment from the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee (NPC).

Some an­a­lysts said China may take a harder line against Hong Kong, but given its im­por­tance as a fi­nance hub, Bei­jing is likely to avoid any mea­sures that could dent its eco­nomic pros­per­ity.

“Pos­si­bly China will draw some lessons from this, and make some changes in its Hong Kong pol­icy. Some mat­ters may be treated more harshly. It’s hard to say,” said Shi.

Around 100 pro- democ­racy sup­port­ers out­side the leg­is­la­ture cheered at the vote Thurs­day, punch­ing the air and hug­ging each other as the re­sult was broad­cast live on a big screen.

“I’m ex­cited!” said 30-year-old IT worker Ken Tsang. “It was a pro­posal that would only ben­e­fit those in power.”

Hun­dreds of pro-gov­ern­ment sup­port­ers, who had gath­ered at the har­bourfront assem­bly, shouted through loud­speak­ers to “vote out” the democrats.

“I’m very dis­ap­pointed that I can­not have my vote (for leader),” said Le­ung Ting-to, 63, who was stand­ing with the pro- Bei­jing camp.

“Hong Kong ... was given the chance to have uni­ver­sal suf­frage, but the democrats took it away.”

Civic Party leader Alan Leong, part of the pro-democ­racy camp, said that it would “go down in history” that only eight peo­ple sup­ported the bill.

“The mes­sage that we are send­ing to the cen­tral peo­ple’s gov­ern­ment and the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment is that Hong Kong peo­ple do not want to take on this fake demo­cratic pack­age,” he said.

AP

(Top) A pro-democ­racy sup­porter takes pic­tures af­ter a vote out­side the city’s leg­is­la­ture in Hong Kong on Thurs­day. (Above) Pro-democ­racy law­maker Lee Cheuk-yan ges­tures be­fore a vote on elec­tion re­form pro­pos­als in Hong Kong, Thurs­day, June 18.

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