HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s leader told Beijing yesterday that the city’s residents wanted a full election in 2017, but said the financial hub would have to abide by the restrictive framework set down by China’s Communist authorities.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying offered no firm proposal, but said the contest would be run according to the “Basic Law”, or mini-constitution, that has governed Hong Kong since Britain returned it to Chinese rule in 1997, rather than international standards.
That document stipulates that candidates for the position of chief executive must be approved in advance by a “broadly representative” special committee.
The city’s pro-democracy opposition fears it will be shut out of the poll.
Hundreds of thousands marched through Hong Kong on July 1 in support of full democracy.
Leung said the principle of universal suffrage in the 2017 poll “will be an important milestone of the democratic development of Hong Kong’s political system, with significant real impact and historic meaning”.
“The Hong Kong community is generally eager to see the implementation of universal suffrage for the...election in 2017,” he said in his report to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC), China’s parliament.
He later told a news conference that the difficulties in forging a local consensus were not to be underestimated, but said: “Hong Kong people are rational and pragmatic.”
“What is important is that if the international standards do not comply with the Basic Law and the decisions of the NPCSC we have to follow the Basic Law and the NPCSC decision,” he said.
Leung’s report immediately sparked minor protests. Three pro-democracy lawmakers were removed from the Legislative Council’s chamber for unruly behaviour, including one who shouted “no caged elections”.
Outside, a handful of pro-democracy protesters were out-numbered by hundreds of elderly activists from pro-Beijing groups, many waving red Chinese national flags. Hong Kong is governed under the principle of “one country, two systems” allowing it broad autonomy and far more freedom of speech, assembly and religion than exists on the mainland. But China has made it plain that Beijing’s sovereignty cannot be questioned.
Both the United States and Britain have intensified calls to implement democratic reforms amid broader concerns about the future of Hong Kong’s core freedoms and independent judiciary.
Leung’s presentation followed a five-month consultation on democracy in the former British colony that drew nearly 125,000 public submissions.
His report also appeared to reflect a key concern of Beijing’s leadership, saying that public opinion supported the notion that Hong Kong’s next leader needed to be “a person who loves the country and loves Hong Kong”.
The Standing Committee of China’s parliament is due to rule on the need for reform in August after which Hong Kong residents will be asked to comment on a range of options.
tHong Kong’s legislature must then vote in any changes.