Tags: China | Hong Kong

China: Next Hong Kong Leader to Be Vetted

Sunday, 31 August 2014 08:21 AM

China’s lawmakers ruled that candidates for Hong Kong’s next leader must be screened by a committee, angering pro-democracy advocates in the city who promised to veto the plan and stage a mass occupation of the city’s financial district.

Hundreds of protesters began gathering outside the offices of the city’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying as darkness fell, with activists vowing to begin a series of actions to fight the proposal. China’s plan requires candidates to have the support of more than half of a 1,200-member nominating committee, giving it an effective veto over anyone not viewed as friendly to the Communist Party government in Beijing.

“Today is the darkest day of the history of Hong Kong’s democratic development,” Benny Tai Yiu-ting, co-founder of Occupy Central With Love and Peace, told reporters today. The group will carry through on its threat to occupy Central with thousands of protesters at some point in the future, he said. “I think now this is the end of any dialogue.”

Division over the introduction of universal suffrage that China promised Hong Kong in 2007 threatens to boil over as more radical student leaders also called on people to join the demonstration tonight. Barricades were erected around some Central buildings and hundreds of police filled streets in the district.

The threat of protests has divided the city of more than 7 million people, with tycoons, business groups and officials warning protests could turn violent and tarnish the Hong Kong’s reputation as a global financial center. Leung said he hoped protesters would be peaceful and law-abiding, describing the framework approved by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in Beijing as a “precious offer.”

Veto Plan

“If we are willing, the majority of Hong Kong people -- that is some 5 million eligible voters -- will no longer be bystanders in the next chief executive election,” Leung said. “We cannot afford to stand still on our constitutional development, or else the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong will be at stake.”

Leung pledged to hold a second public consultation as soon as possible before introducing a bill to the city’s legislature in the first three months of next year. He acknowledged it will be difficult to get the the two-thirds majority of legislators necessary to approve the law.

Some pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers, including the Civic Party’s Ronny Tong, said the proposal would be rejected when it comes to the local legislature. To become law, the universal suffrage bill will require two-thirds of Hong Kong’s 70-member legislature to support it, meaning the legislation could be halted by the 27 opposition members.

No Negotiation

“The pan-democratic camp won’t negotiate,” said Ronny Tong, a Civic Party lawmaker in the city, told Hong Kong Cable TV. “A negotiation could send the wrong signal to Beijing that the democrats are willing to accept an election with pre- screening.”

If the proposal is rejected, Hong Kong will continue to have its leader picked by a 1,200-member election committee.

Maria Tam, a Hong Kong delegate to the NPC, said in Beijing that chief executive candidates must get more than half of the nomination committee’s vote because it has to be a “corporate decision that follows the principle that the majority rules.”

The NPC decision states that the nominating committee will be “broadly representative” and its composition will follow that of the 2012 Election Committee that selected Hong Kong’s current leader, a body that pro-democrats criticized as being stacked with Hong Kong’s business and political elite.

Demands Rejected

Public nomination of candidates -- a demand of some groups -- was also rejected as against the the city’s mini-constitution known as the Basic Law, Li Fei, the NPC’s deputy secretary- general, said at a briefing in Beijing today.

The legislation was a democratic development and some opponents failed to recognize the central government’s governance rights in Hong Kong, Li said. The city reverted to China from British rule in 1997.

“The development chances that Hong Kong may miss because of this will not come back again,” Li said.

The number of contenders allowed to contest the poll will be set at two or three, according to the decision, a limit that has also upset pro-democracy activists.

Protesters gathering tonight sat on the grass and made noise by beating dishes and plates, while chanting slogans including “fight for democracy,” “disobey orders,” and “never lower our heads.”

‘Never Give Up’

“We want to tell the world that we will never give up our fight,” said Joseph Cheng, one of the events organizers. The protests will show leaders in Beijing that they will start their “long-term, peaceful and nonviolent fight” today.

Almost 800,000 people voted in an unofficial referendum organized by pro-democracy activist group Occupy Central with Love and Peace in June against China’s insistence that candidates be vetted through a committee. As many as 172,000 people marched to push for democracy on July 1, while an anti- Occupy Central march on Aug. 17 attracted about 88,000, according to estimates by the University of Hong Kong.

Screening of candidates is necessary to safeguard the interests of business groups to protect the city’s capitalist economy, Wang Zhenmin, a legal scholar who advises the Chinese government on Hong Kong matters, said Aug. 28 at an event organized by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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China's lawmakers ruled that candidates for Hong Kong's next leader must be screened by a committee, angering pro-democracy advocates in the city who promised to veto the plan and stage a mass occupation of the city's financial district.
China, Hong Kong
Sunday, 31 August 2014 08:21 AM
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