For pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, China’s promise to let the people have a say in the election of the city’s next top leader is looking rather hollow.
The standing committee of China’s National People Representative Conference (NPC) announced on August 31 that candidates for the 2017 election of Hong Kong’s chief executive must obtain at least 50 percent support from a nominating committee. That nominating committee will be formed just like the current chief executive selection committee, meaning the majority of the members will be pro-Beijing.
China promised Hong Kong, a former British colony that enjoys a certain level of autonomy from the mainland as a special administrative region, a direct vote in 2017 instead of election via the 1,200-member committee. But having only pro-Beijing tickets to choose from defeats the purpose of an election, pro-democracy activists say.
Committees packed with “patriot” members have smothered pro-democracy candidate’s chances in the past. The majority of the current chief executive committee selection committee members come from pro-Beijing civic groups, either directly nominated by the organizations or elected within a small circles of some 20 companies or individual voters. In the 2012 selection of the chief executive, pro-democracy candidate Albert Ho only managed to get 188 nominations (less than 16 percent) and 76 votes (less than 7 percent) from the members.
The NPC, which met for a week in the mainland capital, also ruled the number of candidates will be restricted to two or three.
Protest group Occupy Central with Love and Peace (OCLP), which has said it will hold a massive sit-in in Hong Kong’s financial district if Hong Koners aren’t allowed to choose the candidates, organized a public assembly outside the Hong Kong government building attended by hundreds in response.
The group said in a press release that the NPC’s decision dashed people’s hopes for change and will intensify societal conflicts. More than 500 members were arrested earlier this summer at a rehearsal sit-in for Occupy Central following a rally of a half a million people on July 1, a day that traditionally sees pro-democracy demonstrations.
Read more: globalvoicesonline.org – Written by Oiwan Lam