Hong Kong government defies protests, goes ahead with political reform

Hong Kong government defies protests, goes ahead with political reform

5Hong Kong, Jan 7 (IANS/EFE) The Hong Kong government took another step towards its plan of political reform for the 2017 elections to the region’s chief executive, which is very similar to Beijing’s proposal that sparked a wave of pro-democracy protests in the city last year.

On Wednesday, chief secretary Carrie Lam launched the second round of the process: A popular referendum to determine the methods for selecting the chief executive candidates.

However, Lam made it clear that the candidates would be vetted by a 1,200-member committee backed by the Chinese government.

The decision to form a vetting committee taken by China’s National People’s Congress’s Standing Committee (NPCSC) Aug 31, 2014, was the catalyst for the largest pro-democracy protests the city had ever witnessed, in what was called the “Umbrella Revolution.”

Hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets Sep 29 in an extended protest that lasted over two months.

“Constitutional development must be built on the basis of our basic law and the decisions adopted by (China’s) NPCSC, other means would only be futile and impractical, and the aim of universal suffrage for the chief executive election would remain a castle in the air,” Lam said during her Wednesday Legislative Council address.

The proposals presented by Lam focus on the nomination process of the chief executive candidates, but denies citizens the right to directly elect future candidates, who will instead be pre-selected by the Beijing-backed committee.

Instead, it allows people to have a say in deciding the method to be used by the committee for the candidate selection.

During her address, Lam emphasised that the chance to elect the chief executive by popular ballot in 2017 is “an opportunity that should not be missed” and “the only way to create a solid foundation for further democratisation.”

The third step of this electoral reform, which will begin in spring, will be decisive in advancing the government’s proposal to implement universal suffrage in Hong Kong, albeit with restrictions on the free election of candidates.

The proposal must be approved by the Hong Kong parliament in less than three months, where it will need a two-thirds majority to pass.

China has already warned that the reform will be frozen for the 2017 elections in case the bill is not enacted by the city’s legislative council.

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